On Wednesday, November 28, 2012, the Florida Senate’s newly created Gaming Committee announced that it will be chaired by Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter. Senator Maria Sachs will serve as Vice Chair. This committee will oversee the growing gaming industry in the state, and will help to shape the future of slot machines and other gaming products throughout Florida.
Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling, who represents nearly 6,000 Florida Thoroughbred horsemen, issued a statement thanking the Senator’s for their service, and offering them insight into the industry they are being chosen to oversee.
“The 104,000 people employed by Florida’s $2.2 billion dollar horse racing industry congratulates Senator Richter, Senator Sachs and all the members of this important new Committee,” stated Stirling.
“As Senators begin their careful study of the facts surrounding Florida’s convoluted gambling laws and regulations, it is critical to know that the statewide rush to hold county slot machine referendums has been largely fueled over the past year by the use of phony, contrived horse-related events such as ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ and copycat hybrids deliberately designed to skirt both state and federal law at the expense of our livelihoods,” Stirling continued.
“These phony events—brand new gambling products that were allowed with no enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input—exploit the fact that Florida has no legal definition of ‘horse race.’ Not even real barrel racing or horse racing, these illegitimate events have been fabricated by rogue pari-mutuel permitholders and their casino interests to purposefully eliminate the thousands of competitive horses and 104,000 documented Florida jobs they annually create in Florida’s legitimate Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing and breeding industry, while enabling these facilities to be licensed for cardrooms and—if ultimately allowed by the Legislature—slot machines,” added Stirling.
“Hence the statewide rush by counties such as Gadsden, Hamilton and Washington to hedge their bets this year with speculative slot referendums. Because Florida law requires live racing in order to hold ancillary gaming activities, facility owners —some of them out-of-state tribal gaming corporations—see Gretna Racing LLC’s “pari-mutuel barrel racing” model as an opportunity to not only curtail the expense of jobs that would normally be created by legitimate horse racing, but to hoard the resulting profits that would otherwise be distributed in purses through independent horsemen’s associations,” Stirling concluded.
The gaming industry in the state is a growing one, and the need for strong government oversight and regulation is strong. If there isn’t someone in the state house who is looking over the shoulder of legitimate gambling facilities, the numerous so-called “penny palaces” that have sprung up all around the state will continue to expand, and the state coffers will continue to shrink.
Gambling is an industry that is almost purpose built for corruption. Money, greed, and power are the name of the game, and bending the rules in order to get a few more cents into your pocket is almost a standard business practice. In the end, however, we need to understand that the sportsman involved in horse racing, as well as dog tracks, need to have their interests protected as well.
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