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Lawmaker says Japanese owners discriminate

Japanese companies should have to meet the same job-discrimination standards as American companies to own Florida racetracks, a state legislator said Monday.

"I believe that there's a lot of employment discrimination by Japanese companies," state Rep. Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach, told the House Regulated Industries Committee.

Silver was questioning Bill Tabor, head of the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, about a rewrite of state pari-mutuel statutes.

He's said he'll propose an amendment to require U.S. ownership of horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. The committee didn't vote on the pari-mutuel bill or take up amendments on Monday.

The state division passed an emergency rule in December that enabled Orient Corp., Japan's fifth-largest company, to take over the Gulfstream racetrack, and Kawasaki Leasing International to take over Calder.

Tabor acknowledged that background checks carried out through international police agencies might not match the way the state reviews U.S. citizens who operate pari-mutuel facilities.

"Any company, domestic or foreign ought to comply with the policies of this state with regard to discrimination," Silver said.

The sports gambling bill, passed 5-2, would set up two football-related games to be operated by the Florida Lottery and permit sports betting at licensed pari-mutuel facilities such as racetracks.