Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Changes in quarter horse racing could affect card rooms

TALLAHASSEE — It's pitched as a way to modernize and toughen quarter horse gambling regulations in Florida.

But after nearly 17 years without a single legal bet on a quarter horse race in Florida, is it really just a way to let a handful of businesses corner the market and capitalize on card room gambling?

That's the debate surrounding a bill pushed by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, that easily passed the Florida Senate Thursday, 33-5. The plan (SB 604) would impose tougher requirements on anyone applying for a quarter horse racing permit in the future.

But stricter standards wouldn't apply to six applicants that applied for a quarter horse racing permit since February, including one in Citrus County. The six join two others that have applied since last year, when lawmakers greatly relaxed card-room gambling rules.

The incentive: Under current law, quarter horse permit holders can run just one race a year but operate lucrative poker games much more often.

To appease critics, Jones agreed to amend the bill Thursday to require 20 race days in 2009. But that might not be enough. Besides antigambling forces, the measure has also drawn the ire of competing parimutuels, who worry competitors will be able start up easily with the exemptions in the bill.

"It is not going to be a boon for quarter horse racing. It's going to be boon for those permit holders to operate card rooms," said an opponent, Rep. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

Even state regulators question the furry of interest in quarter horse racing, per se. "I think the grandfather clause is the reason … they just applied to get in under the bell," said Dave Roberts, Florida's director of parimutuel wagering.

The Citrus County proposal is affiliated with officials in the mega Gulfstream Park facility in South Florida. Five more companies, including at least two tied to Gulfstream executives, applied March 14 to 19. They include locations in Brevard, Gadsden, Marion, Sumter and Volusia counties.

Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar said restrictions in state law on running quarter horses — unlike competing gambling venues — make card rooms a way to subsidize the return of quarter horse racing.

Quarter horse racing advocates say running the compact, sprinting quarter horses will help the state's economy. Florida is home to 20,000 more quarter horses than even equine mecca Kentucky, but the owners have to take the horses out of state for event and purses, said Steve Fisch, president of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association.

For every horse competing, Fisch projects seven jobs in Florida — and tax money, too.

He supports the exemptions for the six, saying it allows qualified companies to start up while limiting their competition later.

For example, the recent permit applications would be exempt from the 100-mile minimum distance requirement for a new parimutuel to be near a new horse racing site, for example. The Feb. 1 permit request for quarter horse racing in Crystal River at Rock Crusher Canyon would be a 57-mile drive from Tampa Bay Downs, which has a dormant quarter horse permit.

Citing the economic benefits, Jones and the House sponsor, Homosassa Republican Ron Schultz, said the exemption is to be fair to companies that applied under existing state law.

But Schultz's House colleagues aren't convinced leaving the bill's fate uncertain in the House. A committee rejected the grandfather clause last month. And even some supporters of that idea measure say it may not be worth the hassle. "There are a lot of important issues facing the Legislature, beyond gambling," said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Changes in quarter horse racing could affect card rooms 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 4:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.