Scott: Lawmakers need to shut down barrel racing, slotsby 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.