It would take a pretty big reason to make a famous football coach to fly home for a day or so while his team is training to compete in the Super Bowl.
In the world of Thoroughbred racing, the equivalent of the Super Bowl is known as the “Breeders’ Cup.” And for this year’s edition of the Breeders’ Cup—being held on November 2 in Los Angeles, California—one South Florida-based superstar horse named “Little Mike” has already made the long voyage to the nation’s West Coast to compete in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf. Alongside Little Mike also traveled his co-owner, South Florida restauranteur Carlo Vaccarreza, and his award-winning trainer, Dale Romans.
But, the two men have already planned to sacrifice a crucial 48 hours of Little Mike’s training time before the big event to make a round trip back to South Florida from California and then back to California again. Why? They feel it’s crucial for them to attend the October 23 Florida Senate Gaming Committee hearing at Broward College North Campus in Coconut Creek—the first of a series of workshops intended to allow for public comment on the Spectrum Gaming Study commissioned by the Florida Legislature earlier this year. The Study results will literally shape the future of horse racing in Florida—a multi-billion dollar statewide industry that has earned the state international prominence in the horse racing scene.
Vaccarezza and Romans, together with former Southeast Toyota Distributors executive John Williams, are the founders of South Florida-based “Little Dreams Racing,” a new concept in the horse racing scene that enables “everyday folks” to own a little piece of a big dream—a Thoroughbred racehorse. Typically, the annual net cost of maintaining a racehorse in competition begins at $25,000 a year—well beyond most people’s budgets for discretionary expenditures.
So when Vaccarezza and Romans step up to the microphone on October 23 in Coconut Creek to speak to Florida Senate Gaming Committee legislators, they won’t just be representing themselves and their horse racing-based businesses, they’ll also be representing the dozens of “Little Dreams Racing” owners, all of whom are Florida business owners or corporate professionals seeking a “little” taste of winner’s circle glory.
“We want to make sure our lawmakers know that, although Florida’s horse racing business certainly attracts the lion’s share of wealthy international corporate moguls, its heart and soul is built on average, working-class people who are their neighbors, taxpayers, voters and business owners,” Vaccarezza explained. “We’ll be there in Coconut Creek for them—the horsemen.”
Horsemen are those who own and work directly with horses—people who self-finance and supply the figurative “gasoline” that runs the horse racing “engine.” They compete their horses for a share of “purses”—the prize money generated from pari-mutuel wagering handle. In turn, their earnings finance the many employees and small businesses required in racehorse care.
“It’s often mistakenly assumed that horsemen’s interests always coincide with those of pari-mutuel permitholders—the actual racing facilities. Sometimes they do—but other times, they simply don’t,” Vaccarezza said. “In crafting any future pari-mutuel laws and regulations, we think that’s an important point for our legislators to remember.”
Speaking out at one of these hearings is not as simple as showing up and letting everyone know how you feel. As anyone in the state should probably know, gaming is a well-established business sector in Florida with roots stretching back to the 1890s. In the past 25 years, gaming industries have been transformed, not just in Florida but all around the country. Pari-mutuel wagering has declined. The State Lottery, as well as cruises, card rooms, casinos, and “Internet cafes” have emerged. Meanwhile, Florida’s approach to regulating and taxing gaming activities has not kept pace, and the current layers of exceptions and patches are not working well to promote the state’s overall economic and social welfare.
Understanding local perspectives and personal impacts is an instrumental component of public policy decisions that could impact the future of gaming in our state for generations. Community leaders and interested citizens are encouraged to add their testimony to the committee record by submitting comments in writing or speaking at a public workshop.
From the Senate’s “Gaming” web page (http://www.flsenate.gov/topics/gaming), you can:
• Download a copy of the “Florida Gambling Impact Study.”
• Submit comments in writing.
• Access maps and directions for attending a public workshop.
• Register to speak at a public workshop (deadline for online requests is three days prior to workshop; those who miss the deadline and wish to speak may attend the workshop and fill out appearance cards onsite).
Four workshops are scheduled at locations across the state:
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 4:00 – 7:00 PM (Eastern)
Broward College, North Campus, OMNI Auditorium
1000 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before October 16, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 3:00 – 6:00 PM (Eastern)
George Jenkins High School, Auditorium
6000 Lakeland Highlands Road, Lakeland, FL 33813
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before October 23, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013, 1:30 – 4:30 PM (Central)
WSRE-TV Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio
1000 College Boulevard, Pensacola, FL 32504
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before November 7, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013, 2:00 – 5:00 PM (Eastern)
Florida State College at Jacksonville Downtown Campus, Advanced Technology Center
401 W. State St., Jacksonville, FL 32202
To be listed on the agenda, make request to speak on or before November 8, 2013
In addition, the Senate Gaming Committee will meet in Tallahassee on November 4 and December 9 to hear more public and industry reactions to the “Florida Gambling Impact Study.”
Citizens are encouraged to attend the public workshops, share your perspectives, view meeting records (http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/GM), and track these important issues during the 2014 Session.
The Elections Examiner will strive to bring you the latest campaign information from all sides of the political spectrum. Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the voters of this great country. If you have an election related issue you'd like to see explored, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, motorsports, and restaurants.