- card rooms
- casino operations
- Chris Latvala
- Dan Daley
- greyhound racing
- Gulfstream Park
- harness racing
- HB 11A
- HB 1A
- HB 7A
- HB 9A
- House Bill 11A
- House Bill 1A
- House Bill 7A
- House Bill 9A
- House of Representatives
- Isle Casino Pompano
- jai alai
- Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity
- Slot machines
- special session
- standard bred horses
- thoroughbred racing
Two House bills weaving the legal framework for the Seminole Compact’s impact on horse racing and on fantasy sports betting won approval Monday from the House Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity.
Both bills, Republican Rep. Chris Latvala‘s HB 7A for decoupling casinos from pari-mutuel betting and Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow‘s HB 9A for fantasy sports, seek to create new parameters for gambling outside of Seminole Tribe of Florida casinos.
Both make it likely for Floridians to see gambling expand in those non-tribal games. The Seminole Compact itself is covered in HB 1A, which was not heard by the select subcommittee.
But the pari-mutuel decoupling bill is pitting parts of the horse industry against other parts, as the horse breeders and owners wish to see horse racing continue in Florida while some track owners wish to make that optional.
The bill would allow cardrooms and slot machine casinos run at jai alai frontons, former greyhound racing tracks closed down last year, and Florida’s last remaining harness racing track to be decoupled from those pari-mutuel gambling operations. That means those operations could cease, yet the casinos could continue.
That would not be so for thoroughbred racing, which Latvala and other proponents of the bill contend is still too big and too important an industry in Florida to risk losing.
That decoupling provision looks to be changing soon. Latvala indicated an interest in also nixing the proposed decoupling of harness racing from casino operations.
HB 7A, HB 9A, and a third bill, Latvala’s HB 11A, which would change licensing fees for fantasy sports operations, all were approved by the select subcommittee on split votes, strong enough to assure passage but still with bipartisan handfuls of representatives voting no. HB 7A was approved by a 13-5 vote; HB 9A by a 12-6 vote; and HB 11A by a 12-5 vote.
Perhaps the most passionate argument came over the possible fate of Florida’s last harness racing track and the community of standard bred horse breeders and owners set to lose their only Florida outlet if it closes. Caesars Entertainment, owners of Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, already have applied for a rezoning that could eliminate the track if Caesars is allowed to decouple the casino.
Rep. Dan Daley, a Democrat from Coral Springs whose father raised standard bred horses, contended that Caesars plans to end harness racing despite the fact that this past racing season was a record year, because the company expects it could make more money with a casino on a mixed-use development. He urged that Florida keep the harness racing requirement, lest Florida’s Standardbred industry be wiped out by the loss of the track in the state.
“The horsemen and horsewomen of the Standardbred industry have gotten the short end of the stick for 15 years,” Daley said.
At the same time, a representative of Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach posed the opposite argument, contending that if Isle Casino can decouple, why can’t we?
Latvala said he already was considering amending the bill before it reaches the House floor to address Daley’s concerns about decoupling harness racing from casino game rooms.
“We are looking into the Standardbred’s issue and putting that back together,” Latvala said.