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Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Sweetheart Deal for Florida Horsemen

Isle of Capri horsemen have hit the lottery at Pompano Park in their latest four year contract with management.  Among some of the highlights of the contract (from the perspective of horsemen) are:

  • A guaranteed 45 week race schedule for a total of 140 racing days.  Too many days under normal circumstances, but being in some ways Pompano Park is like Cal Expo, isolated, reasonable.
  • A $2.5 million non-statutory subsidy to purses (for each year with protection against inflation) this in addition to statutory simulcasting and card room revenue..
  • Forgiveness of a roughly $10 million purse account deficit
  • The greater of 7.5% of the total purse amount or $625,000 per year to fund Florida-bred stakes and breeder awards.
  • A guarantee that there will be no assessment for future purse account deficits.
  • The understanding that during the term of the contract neither party will attempt to influence legislation that will injure the other party.
 Some are probably asking did the Florida horsemen deserve the deal?  You betcha!  Others are probably asking, what do I do to get such a deal?  The answer to that is you need a strong lawsuit that could devastate not only Isle of Capri but thoroughbred horsemen in the state as the FSBOA had a strong case which could have made slot machines once again illegal in the Florida for parimutuel facilities as the standardbred horsemen argued the enabling legislation was unconstitutional in that Article III, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution specifies the Legislature is constitutionally barred from passing general laws that impact only specific parties or areas of the state unless constitutional requirements are met; otherwise violating the equal protection law.

What did the cited-legislation do that violated the law?  It only required as a condition of licensure for slot machines, that the thoroughbred tracks must have a contract with their horsemen groups for revenue sharing and did not specify such a contract for standardbred interests.  In effect, Pompano Park got to keep all the slot revenue for themselves and did not find themselves inclined to share in their new found wealth (until this year).  With the FSBOA's request for summary judgement declaring the law unconstitutional coming up, as what happens with most lawsuits, both sides decide to come to an agreement rather than taking their chances in a court of law and in Isle of Capri's case, I suspect they felt they had a good chance of losing.

It is no secret that Florida is a pro-thoroughbred state as there are multiple thoroughbred tracks and only one standardbred track.  There are available quarterhorse licenses, four thoroughbred licenses issued in Florida, and only one standardbred license in the whole state.  Quarterhorse licensees are also allowed to also host no more than 50% of their total races as thoroughbred races.  If someone wanted to open up another harness track, in the state, it would be illegal to unless Pompano Park closed and then, I would suspect the thoroughbred interests would attempt to get that license revoked so it would not be available to be reissued (I am sorry, these days I do not think well of our thoroughbred brethren).  So with the strength the thoroughbred industry has in the state, they were able to influence the enabling legislation to make sure they were protected.  As for the standardbred industry, the legislature doesn't listen.  The FSBOA was willing to drop the lawsuit if the Florida legislature was willing to correct the legislation which apparently, they did not do,

So good to the FSBOA for getting a sweetheart deal.  They deserved it and probably more.