Administrative judge nixes barrel racing licensesby Dara Kam | May 6th, 2013
The state of Florida erred when it licensed barrel racing at two North Florida racetracks, an administrative law judge ruled today.
Judge John G. Van Landingham’s 85-page ruling is the latest twist in a drawn-out legal battle over whether barrel racing, until two years ago typically a rodeo event, is a legitimate gambling activity in Florida.
Van Landingham’s final order is a victory for the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association, which challenged the Department of Business and Professional Regulation that oversees gambling in the state over issuing the license for barrel racing under a quarter horse permit to Gretna Racing in 2011.
Barrel racing was never contemplated by the Legislature or by voters when they approved other horse racing in a constitutional amendment in 1968, Van Landingham ruled. Instead, DBPR issued the license without adopting a rule authorizing barrel racing, he found.
“Florida administrative law does not allow an agency to establish such a policy stealthily by the issuance of expedient licenses; this is equally true whether the policy is highly controversial or widely praised,” Van Landingham wrote.
DBPR spokeswoman Sandi Poreda said the agency is reviewing the ruling.
Florida is the only place in the country where gamblers can legally bet on barrel racing, where horses race against the clock instead of each other at the same time. DBPR also issued a barrel racing license to Hamilton Downs Horsetrack near Jacksonville.
“A race ‘between’ horses, therefore, is a contest pitting horse against horse that takes place during the same span of time, beginning for all with a single starting signal and ending when the last horse crosses the finish line. The horses must perform simultaneously, not sequentially, which means that they are connected, not only by the fact of being opponents, and not only by the fact of competing on the same race course, but also temporally,” Van Landingham wrote.
The ruling raises questions about not only the barrel races at the Gretna track, about 25 miles from Tallahassee, but about the more lucrative cardroom at the track. And it also casts doubt on whether the facility will be able to offer slot machine gambling despite voters’ approval of a local referendum allowing the slots.