Efforts to decouple live racing from casino-style gambling at Florida pari-mutuel facilities are being rallied against by horseman’s groups.
Groups that oppose dog racing and Greyhound tracks have pushed for decoupling, which would remove a requirement that live racing must be offered by tracks or risk losing their slot machines. First to signal that decoupling would be part of a broader discussion involving gamming and the state’s pact with the Seminole tribe was the Florida Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). The former has full casinos in the state including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
Members of the Florida legislature and Governor Rick Scott were recently sent letters by Eric Hamerback, the National HBPA president, stating the organization’s opposition to decoupling legislation and the adverse effect it would have on Florida’s horse racing and breeding industry. The national HBPA consists of 29,000 members and has approximately 30 affiliates in North America. Hamelback’s letter goes on to state HBPA’s role in ensuring that live racing expands or remains intact in Florida. It also makes note of the likelihood of live horse racing tracks being replaced by stand-alone casinos in the event that Florida was permitted to remove the statutory mandate requirement. The removal of which would result in Florida losing substantial economic benefits from tourism, jobs, taxes, a vibrant horse breeding industry and the creation of small businesses with horse farms, according to Blood-Horse.
To make its case, NoDecoupling.com was created by a group called United Horsemen. It along with the Florida and National HBPA, members are the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, United States Trotting Association, American Quarter Horse Association, and the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association.
Currently Florida offers harness racing at Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park and Quarter Horse racing at Hialeah Park. Those two facilities have slot machines, as do Calder Casino & Race Course, Gulfstream Park, and a few Greyhound tracks.