South Florida legislators file bills to keep harness racing running

standardbred
Dan Daley says he's looking to fix a glitch in the recent gaming compact.

The final harness racing contest at Florida’s last venue for the sport will take place this April, but Rep. Dan Daley wants to make sure that anyone else who wants to take up the sport in Florida can.

The Democratic lawmaker from Coral Springs has filed legislation (HB 1269) to correct what he sees as a glitch in last year’s legislation that was part of a Gaming Compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Democrat Sen. Shevrin Jones has filed a companion bill (SB 1794).

The bills call for anyone who has permits to run other kinds of wagering — greyhound racing, thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing or jai alai games during the 2020-21 year — to also be able to get a permit to run two-wheeled chariots around a racetrack. Currently, if someone wanted to race sulkies around a racetrack for people to bet on, there’s no mechanism to get that permit, Daley said.

“HB 1269, which I filed for the 2022 Session, provides an avenue for harness racing to return to Florida while allowing the families in this industry to operate their small businesses and continue to raise their families,” Daley said.

He estimated 10,000 jobs will disappear along with the sport when adding up the jockeys, horse caretakers and material suppliers.

“Agriculture is the second-largest industry in Florida and once again, it’s being taken for granted,” Daley said, commenting on the way the sport was simply eliminated.

The Isle Casino is closing its harness-racing track at the end of this season because of a planned redevelopment of the land that its track now sits on. The casino is planning to build a hotel, a cinema, shops, restaurants and apartments on the land where an old grandstand sits.

Daley, pointing out the harness racing operation is still drawing profits and crowds at Isle Casino, said the state should at least provide a way for harness racing to exist, even if the Isle Casino has found a more profitable use for its land.

The 233-acre facility that once drew celebrities like Jackie Gleason, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford made Pompano Beach the “Winter Capital of Harness Racing” starting in 1964, according to Frank Cavaioli, a retired history and political science professor. Cavaioli wrote a book titled “Pompano Park Harness Track.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


4 comments

  • RANDY LEE

    January 11, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    The sport is DEAD and will go the way of the Circus and Dog Racing. They beat the shit out of these horses but the claim is they are hitting the shaft of the bike…..Good RIDDENS i am happy to see the horses will finally be getting a break….

    • claude kirshner

      January 11, 2022 at 3:24 pm

      Harness racing should continue in Florida as it definitely adds to the employment options in the state, including breeding farms.

      • Willie

        January 12, 2022 at 7:13 pm

        I’m for Harness racing but the claims that Rep. Dan Daley made about 10,000 people losing jobs is a flat out lie. one race track with 10 or so stables maybe 250 jobs top.

  • sonny

    January 13, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    Horse racing is a dead gamble. All of those lost jobs can just carry over to the new facilities. There will be plenty of jobs availale. I’m sure that guy shoveling horse crap will like a nice indoor job making good money. He could still feed his family and come home minus the fly’s.

Comments are closed.


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