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Scott: Lawmakers need to shut down barrel racing, slots

by Dara Kam | December 21st, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott is calling on lawmakers to quickly close what he called a gray area in Florida law that allowed a Panhandle racetrack to get a permit for barrel racing and a card room and opened the door for slot machines.

Scott also for the first time said he doesn’t believe lawmakers meant to include as a legitimate gambling activity when they passed laws regulating pari-mutuels.

“It doesn’t appear to me that it was the intent of the law. They need to clear it up,” Scott told The Palm Beach Post this afternoon.

Scott’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued the quarter horse permit to Gretna Racing – owned by the Alabama-based Poarch Creek Indians and gambling lawyers David Romanik and Marc Dunbar – last month. Regulators believed there was nothing in Florida law allowed them to deny the permit, now being challenged in court.

Lawmakers need to put an end to the uncertainty over the barrel racing and possible spread of it to other facilities – a track in Hamilton County has applied for a barrel racing permit – Scott said.

“It’s not fair to people who invest their dollars. It’s not fair to people who are supposed to enforce the law if the law’s not clear. So the legislature ought to clear it up whether that’s allowed or not,” He said.

Scott said he wants the legislature to act quickly before voters in Gadsden County, where the Gretna track is located, go to the polls on Jan. 31 to vote on a referendum allowing slot machines at the casino.

Voter approval of the referendum could threaten the state’s agreement with the Seminole Indians and cost Florida the $225 million the tribe gives annually. That agreement requires that slot machines be limited to pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Slots at tracks elsewhere in the state could blow up next year’s budget which relies on the Seminole cash, Scott said.

“By not doing something, they’re making a decision that will put the Seminole compact at risk. I think they ought to clear it up ahead of time,” Scott said.

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10 Responses to “Scott: Lawmakers need to shut down barrel racing, slots”

  1. Florida Horsemen Says:

    While the State of Florida grapples with a $2 billion budget deficit, the Division of Business and Professional Regulation is simultaneously expending untold taxpayer funds to escalate and exacerbate the costly legal battle to defend Gretna barrel racing, to which Florida’s top-ranking state legislators have repeatedly voiced their increasing opposition during the past several weeks.

    During past weeks, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation released dozens of pages of publicly-funded litigation designed to defend the very situation that the Florida Legislature is now vigorously debating how to curtail.

    Constituting a brand new gambling product, the Gretna license was awarded without enabling legislation, proper regulatory hearings or public input. As expected, Gretna Racing officials immediately used their new license to secure a slot machine referendum in Gadsden County—a loophole-laden legal maneuver that quickly brought copycat requests from other small pari-mutuel permitholders.

    “As the people’s regulator, it is unconscionable that the DBPR is using the public dime to finance protracted litigation to protect its unilateral expansion of gambling, when the Legislature is making it quite clear that this is not the direction it wants for the State of Florida,” remarked Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling.

    “What amazes me is that the State of Florida is actually finance failure by strangling off what could be thousands of jobs and exponentially greater wagering if Gretna Racing were to simply have adhered to legitimate Quarter Horse racing,” added FHBPA President Phil Combest.
    Combest reminded that Florida regulations stipulate that pari-mutuel permitholders must demonstrate that they can protect the flow of revenue to the State. “So we’re killing the revenue we could have had with legitimate racing, killing jobs in the horse racing industry, hammering the gravestones with taxpayer-funded litigation and paying Florida legislators to contemplate the whole thing,” he said. “To me, that’s the real government waste.”

  2. Searcher Says:

    Gov. Snott is killing another employment vehicle. Now, how many of the 750,000 promised jobs has he created?

  3. joan bennett Says:

    While I am neither for or against this issue at this time, I would point out the discrepancy implied with the title. The first line of the article states that Scott wants the “lawmakers to CLOSE the gray area in FL law” and it does not say, as the title implies, that he is against the Gretna facility. However, he does say it will effect the Seminole gambling pact and its state revenue. Now that is a legitimate issue. I am certainly interested in the opportunity for jobs in Gadsden County. Why doesn’t the state get behind the proposed Solar Farms in that area? Why is the SUNSHINE state listed 47th out of 50 states in the promotion and production of solar energy facilities?? That could certainly promote jobs and progress for the state.

  4. Let The Voters Decide Says:

    The Appellate court already made made it clear it wasn’t the legislators intention to limit referendums for slots to just certain counties. The people should have a say statewide whether their counties should have slots. The Seminoles can’t have a monopoly forever. No citizen had a vote on that either by the way. Call your representative ASAP and tell them you feel them same. Floridians need to have more say in our own state. The citizens should have more say on this. Let the voters decide.

    Pari-Mutuels have been loyal to the state and already and will continue to provide more jobs, and with slots, more revenue than the Seminoles could ever provide. The tribe is a sovereign nation and can do pretty much anything they want. We can’t even audit their numbers legally. They are tax free and have an unfair edge that is costing the historical Pari-Mutuel industry their freedom to grow.

  5. @searcher Says:

    Scott is anything but a job killer. Get your facts straight. He is getting Florida’s financial house and employer friendly environment in order. I know those things really bother you, so start thinking of moving to some other state. Scott is going to be around for awhile.

  6. @letvotersdecide Says:

    Voters have decided repeatedly NOT to expand gambling. That has not stopped thelobbyists and gambling industry to continue to wage a war against the will of the people. They will eventually win out if the people let tham. That isthe amazing thing about living in this country. If that is something you don’t like about this country then find someplace better. Good Luck, you’ll need it!

  7. Jupiter Guy Says:

    Skeletor doesn’t want this because he hasn’t figured out a way to rip it off.

  8. nemo Says:

    WTF…barrel raceing.

  9. Vote on it Says:

    Voters will get a chance to vote on gambling, as they should, thanks to the county commissioners.

    There’s gambling in Broward and Dade counties. that’s where many people travel.

    Bring it to the public! Let everyone concerned, vote.

  10. theloneconsumer Says:

    I am starting to feel like an ATTORNEY joke is coming. Because the elephant in the room no one wants to discuss is all of former Governor Charlie Crist’s faoritism in allowing the Indian’s casino deals to go through. As the Indians had a scandal with Ray, their leader and money missing and no taxes paid.
    This wont be the first time Atty Rick Scott has a problem with Crist’s antics as the former Governor.

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