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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Late to the Party but Better Later Than Never

*It took a long time, but finally the FSBOA has joined United Florida Horsemen and the No Decoupling Campaign as the threat of the Florida legislature's approval of Decoupling ( the elimination of the requirement of racinos to have live racing) grows.

Here is the press release:

NoDecoupling Masthead Standardbred
Harness Driver
"Our established businesses and employees should be more important to Florida than out-of-state companies lured with taxpayer funds that--more often than not--don't fulfill their job creation promises," Florida's Harness Horsemen say.  "It's time Florida recognize us as voters, taxpayers, citizens and businesspeople worth keeping."

Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association Joins

With marketing resources, fan-friendly facilities and competitive opportunities for harness horsemen seemingly disappearing by the day in Florida, theFlorida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association (FSBOA) joined the campaign this week to further solidify horsemen's unified voice in state-level legislative issues. comprises the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders' and Owners Association and their respective national "parents," the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the American Quarter Horse Association and now, U.S. Trotting. Altogether, represents over 350,000 horsemen nationwide and over 10,000 in Florida alone.
Voraciously passionate about their sport, Florida's harness horsemen are frustrated and tired of being pigeonholed, where the ability for established patrons and potential fans to watch and enjoy harness racing has literally been cordoned off to such a tight and unpleasant space that horsemen are losing hope of creating or even maintaining their audience in Florida.
"If decoupling passes, harness racing in Florida would likely be headed toward extinction," FSBOA President and Executive Director Joe Pennacchio predicts. "Book it."
What people say about harness racing and what the harness horsemen see are two different things. The presumption that decoupling is a "done deal." The insistence that harness racing is dying while, in reality, virtually every aspect of horsemen's once-thriving business seems to have been maneuvered into hopelessness.
"Across South Florida, shiny new casinos beckon slot machine players with air conditioning, service and new amenities, while harness racing fans must sweat it out with no shelter and bare-bones amenities," Pennacchio explains. "Some casino facility owners seem to be already preparing for decoupling by making customers' pari-mutuel experience as miserable as possible. It's not exactly an equation that helps to grow, much less restore a market."
"Our established businesses and employees should be more important to Florida than out-of-state companies lured with taxpayer funds that--more often than not--don't fulfill their job creation promises," Pennacchio adds. "It's time Florida recognize our horsemen as voters, taxpayers, citizens and businesspeople worth keeping."
Known as "Standardbreds," harness racing horses descend from Colonial times before automobiles when the spirit of competition would strike two horse and buggy drivers in transit. Much like drag racers give the classic "thumbs up," the drivers of yesteryear would enjoy an impromptu matchup. Soon, the buggy races became organized and the sport of Standardbred or "harness" racing began.
Although their style is all different, it's horsemen's love of the sport and their animals that bonds Florida's Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Standardbred owners, trainers and breeders. On the business side, their futures are inextricably linked in the complex wagering world of Interstate and Inter-Track Simulcasting.
The campaign seeks to educate Florida Legislators about how horse racing of all kinds provides greater and more extensive economic impact than stand-alone casinos, particularly because of the cost and labor involved in training and maintaining a racehorse. Decoupling would immediately decrease purses, making Florida the loser against other, more horse racing-friendly states that recognize the sport's superior economic benefits.

As you can see, standardbred racing is so poorly known in Florida, the press release needed to explain what harness racing racing is.  There is no sense in rehashing why the FSBOA didn't join with the UFH coalition until now; it is better late than never. With only one venue in Florida, decoupling slots with racing at Pompano Park would be the end of the sport in Florida, likely closing up the multiple training facilities (shame on anyone who would winter train in a state where the sport had been killed off).

You may be asking why should you care about what goes on Florida?  The moment decoupling were to occur in a state such as the home to Gulfstream, Hialeah, and Tampa Downs, casino companies owning harness and thoroughbred tracks will have their lobbyists beating down the door in other racing legislatures to decouple racing there.

It is good to see the USTA get involved in this battle, but it would be helpful if other horsemen groups of various breeds were to look past their parochial interests and consider the interests of Florida horsemen their own.


Florida Horsemen said...

Each time a racetrack looks to start its own "self-owned" horsemen's association, you can rest assured Florida is the model. (We call that version "defacto decoupling." Above all else, regardless of whether your choice is Standardbred, Thoroughbred or American Quarter Horse Racing, the most important thing that horsemen can do is stay in close contact with their elected officials and, like our press release says today, remind them that you are voters, taxpayers, parents and businesspeople. Despite all of our problems today in government, it really still is in the voters' hands. If you do business in Florida, now is the time to write your State Senator and State Representative. If you do business elsewhere, the need may not be as dire, but the point is still the same. Don't assume you have to accept what's doled out . . .

Marv said...

While the horsemen do have to do something, this is not a winning argument. If the "pari-mutuel operations are being treated like crap" argument is valid, keeping the casino attached to the track like a siamese twin is unlikely to help the PM side of the operation. Why wouldn't the casino want to minimize the track operation if it is less profitable? Ultimately, it will get pushed out.

Here's a better argument: if a racino wants to keep its casino license, it needs to show improvements on the horse racing side (i.e. handle, attendance, etc.). THAT is a state interest: higher tax revenues from PM takeout, more jobs (and associated tax revenues and economic improvement), better quality of life, etc.

Failing to ensure the long-term viability of the racing operation over the casino is a failing of all horsemen groups in states with racinos.