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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gaming as Part of Redevelopment, Florida's Wild West

I read an article this morning about the Barrel Racing facility in Gretna, Florida and I must admit, I am a little less opposed to parimutuel barrel racing.  It seems Gadsden County in Florida, where Gretna is located, is the poorest county in Florida.  The county is 96% minority and reminds me a lot like Tunica, MS which at one point was the poorest county in the United States which became a mecca for casino gambling.  Did it solve all the problems of Tunica?  Probably not, but it was a shot in the arm and did provide for jobs.

Anyway, as the people in Gretna point out, they are not a bunch of hicks, they have been working with the developer of the Grenta entertainment facility for several years which has donated property for an indoor equine arena so it can become a year round destination for equine events as well as other improvements.  The city wants casino gambling as their way to get out of poverty.  Up to now, the developer has delivered everything they have promised and they also said they are here to stay if the casino referendum is invalidated by the state.

How many people know the people at Gretna have committed to building a regular quarter horse track for regular quarter horse racing?  Based on their track record, maybe they should not be doubted.  Yes, the people of Gretna and the developers may have pulled one over the state, but that is the fault of the state, not the people of Gretna.

The problem is Florida's rules regarding racing are so out of date and laisez-faire that it is like the wild west.  First of all, they have so many quarter horse licenses out there that I wonder if they really know how many there are?  The state first of all needs to better define what quarter horse racing is to avoid the barrel racing fiasco and prevent further abuse of the licenses.  After reading about Gretna, I am not sure parimutuel barrel racing should be outlawed, but perhaps restricted to a three year period to allow the funding and development of a traditional quarter horse race track in economically depressed areas.  At the end of three years, parimutuel barrel racing would not be allowed or severly restricted.

The second thing is the State of Florida needs to get those quarter horse licenses not being used back.  If the license is not being realistically used; and not one day of quarter horse racing, they should be automatically forfeited and the number of licenses reduced. 

Lastly, how can there be so many quarter horse licenses, a fair amount of thoroughbred licenses, yet only one standardbred licenses?  At one point there were more than one standardbred license in the state and admittedly some of the other tracks didn't do well.  Yet rather than allowing those licenses to remain in existence, the others were cancelled.  I am not suggesting a slew of standardbred licenses, but perhaps a few more licenses should exist.  A second license may allow Florida horsemen to race during the summer when Pompano is closed; perhaps at a track like Tampa Bay Downs, or a summer fair circuit to bring racing to new markets and keep the horsemen busy; perhaps in Gretna near Georgia where they are hoping to introduce standardbred racing.

The bottom line is horsemen complain when the state is over regulated, but the opposite is true.  Florida's racing is regulated so little that it is like the wild west.  It is time for someone to come in and bring order to Flordia's racing regulations.

Holding on to their last nickel:  One thing we have learned in America and Canada is harness horsemen hold on to their last nickel made with slot machines.  In Harness Racing Update, there is an article on how the runner market like crazy to get the Breeders Cup into an event which surpases the racing.  Yet, with all the money horsemen in slot states make, see what horsemen do to promote the sport.  Yes, the Breeders Crown is a big race, but once it is over, it is over.  Standardbred Canada asked for 5% of purse money for markeeting and they got a resounding no.  No lead up to the Crown, nothing.  We have the race happening and it goes away till next year.  Will harness horsemen ever learn?  I tend to doubt it.

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