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The Gambling Pact- Will It Be the Death of Dog and Horse Racing In Florida?

In Florida, a hotly debated issue rose upon whether live racing should be banned entirely in the many dog and horse tracks, which was once a favorite recreational activity of certain groups of people.

It was compulsory for these tracks to host live racing, or in other words, jai alai games or risk losing their profitable business of poker rooms and slot machines, depending on the country. Removing the requirement will not agree well with Florida’s off-track betting facilities as they mainly depend on these live racing events. This key issue was considered by many lawmakers and industry leaders as they were formulating gambling legislation. A compact was signed on December 7 by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Rick Scott regarding the following two issues: removal of this compulsory requirement and extending gambling options in the Southern areas of the state. In the case of approval by the state legislature, the agreement will commence in 2017 and is speculated to generate $3 billion for Florida within the initial seven years.

The ban on greyhound racing, now a money loser, is a result of the many heated arguments in legislatures. This industry was considered as a dead horse whose survival depended heavily upon tax breaks and poker rooms that supported these facilities. According to the House Regulatory Affairs Chairman, Jose Felix Diaz, the regulation might have allowed separation of dog and horse racing in its entirety, but the matter is more complex than it seems to be. Diaz is not only the head of the gambling legislation but also the chamber’s chief negotiator on the pact with Seminoles.

Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, operated by the Stronach Group, took over racing operations at Calder, owned by Churchill Downs, in nearby Miami Gardens. The Stronach Group operated its racetrack, which was leased and operated under Calder’s permit. While breaking all ties with horse-racing business, Calder demanded to keep its slot machines to itself to re-establish its card room. According to Calder lobbyist, Wilbur Brewton, Calder planned to allocate the revenue generated from these slots to purses for horse races with the intention to keep up its contracts with horsemen and breeders.

Brewton expressed his disagreement in forcing the establishments to continue racing such as Miami Garden tracks, where attendance was significantly low. However, the horse racing industry was strictly against allowing the tracks to drop racing events altogether. They threatened to cancel the permit of those tracks that dared to drop the races.

According to the leaders in horse industry of Central Florida, the horse breeding and training industry has been the source of employment and economic growth from tourism and taxes. However, time will tell whether this decoupling will survive the political and economic swing of the horse industry.