It seems that the all-knowing Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee have once again forsaken the citizens of the state, and declared gambling expansion to be a "dead issue" in early April. The vote for expanded gambling in the state was one of the few issue items that passed in every county where it was on the ballot in the 2012 election, and yet it still requires investors to jump through legal loopholes to expand any sort of gaming.
Now, a new facility is set to open in South Marion County, thanks to Florida regulators issuing a license for more horse-related "timed events" enabling the pari-mutuel permitholder of "South Marion Real Estate Holdings" to open a 365-day a year card room at a facility it calls "Oxford Downs" near The Villages—a popular Central Florida retirement community.
"We cannot fathom why Florida seems intent on dismantling its billion-dollar horse racing industry in this manner," said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA). "As lawmakers deliberate the importance of funds for the State Budget this week, the loss of horse racing's substantial economic and job creation engine is something taxpayers can ill afford."
Because Florida law provides no definition of "horse racing," regulators have continued to issue licenses to some pari-mutuel permitholders for various contrived activities that skirt the State's requirement for live horse racing in order to hold cardrooms or slot machines. The activities dramatically curtail the amount of horses (and thus businesses and employees) that would normally be needed to conduct a legitimate race meeting and corresponding breeding industry.
In a last-ditch effort to educate the Marion County Commission that gambling would be expanding in the heart of Florida's internationally-acclaimed racehorse breeding industry to the detriment of their own constituents, longstanding Florida horsemen described "Oxford Downs" as a "mockery" and a "Trojan Horse." To read their letters to the editor in today's Ocala Star-Banner, click here.
National and regional organizations opposing the "South Marion/Oxford Downs" project have included the American Quarter Horse Association, the Jockey's Guild, FHBPA, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders' and Owners' Association, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association and Ocala Breeders' Sales. Membership in these organizations totals nearly 400,000 horsemen, and represent accredited racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders worldwide.
With casino gambling expanding on Indian land all across the country, and other states changing their laws to enable casino style games to occur with proper supervision, the state of Florida is simply falling behind the times. Hopefully, the great minds in Tallahassee will realize this before the money dries up. Then again, the site of pigs flying is not an everyday occurrence, or is it?
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