Bill offering possible new ride for standardbreds clears House panel

standardbred
Florida's last harness racing track is set to close.

Harness racing, heading toward what may be its final turn in Florida, would be offered another ride in a bill approved Wednesday by a House committee.

Coral Springs Democratic Rep. Dan Daley, whose father raises standardbred race horses, has been trying to find a way to prevent the last run since the Legislature first started contemplating decoupling parimutuel racing from casino action.

His latest proposal (HB 1289), offered as a chance to save the standardbred horse business, made it through the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee Wednesday.

That bill would allow parimutuel operations that do not now offer harness racing — at thoroughbred tracks and former greyhound dog tracks — to host harness racing as well. That would provide hope to a standardbred horse industry that Daley said employs 10,000 Floridians directly or indirectly.

The 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe, which has since been struck down in federal court, included legislation allowing casinos operating at parimutuel tracks to operate without the tracks, or to “decouple.” Daley tried in vain last year to find a way to protect harness racing, which could seem obsolete from a wagering business point of view.

“There was one (harness racing) operator left in Florida and that would be Isle Casino Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Florida. I mentioned at the time that if we decoupled, it likely would lead to the end of harness racing in Florida and certainly to the closure of that track. And that’s exactly, candidly, what’s happened,” Daley said.

“They have put out to horsemen: ‘This would be the last season at Pompano Park.’ This is a track that’s been around since, I think, the ’40s or ’50s. I grew up in part on that track,” Daley said. “Just yesterday, Caesars Entertainment hosted a ground breaking at that track.”

Opposition of Daley’s bill came from Republican Rep. Mike Beltran of Lithia, who viewed HB 969 as an expansion of gambling in Florida. Beltran said he had vowed to oppose any more expansion of gambling.

“It’s not the horse racing, per se, that would be the reason for my vote. There would be new races at new locations that would be wagered on,” Beltran said.

Until Wednesday, HB 1269 was nearly dead. The Regulatory Reform Subcommittee was to be its first stop. But the panel never took it up before adjourning what was to be its last meeting on Feb. 8.

Then, HB 1269 and another bill (HB 969), from Republican Rep. Randy Fine, were given a new chance, and the committee scheduled a special meeting just for them Wednesday. Both bills passed.

Last year, Daley’s proposal died from lack of support in the Senate. This year, the Senate counterpart (SB 1794) isn’t moving yet. The bill from Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones has gotten no committee hearings.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


7 comments

  • Sharon(Lehigh) Vickroy

    February 16, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Retired recently for harness racing. I raced from Indiana to Flordia. Looked forward to going to Pompano every year. You are crushing an industry that a lot of Flordia people will lose there farms, homes and livelihood. Flordia is a perfect place to race in the winter. I remember when the training side was still there. Some of the greats were there. Dan Daley has fought hard too save the industry. You should too!!

  • Trish Soulsby

    February 16, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    Originally I was one of the many horse owners, trainers, drivers, that lobbied for allowing the Casinos to bring slots in. Immediately after it passed, their plan was to ditch racing. They succeeded and now the very least our representatives can do is give us an opportunity to have harness racing somewhere here in the future. I can tell you as it stands now many of us are forced to leave our homes behind and race in another state. You have killed breeding farms, training centers, as well as all the services used by horses and horsemen. Feed vendors, tack shops, blacksmiths, veterinarians, grooms, trainers, drivers. Not knowing or having an understanding of our industry is shameful. I can assure you our impact on Florida economy and jobs should not have been ignored. Please at least leave the door open a crack.

  • David Smith

    February 17, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    Hi I’m a Florida resident and I want harness racing to continue in Florida.

  • Cher Beaudin

    February 18, 2022 at 4:49 am

    Please keep harness racing in Florida,
    So many people including all the horsemen/women work hard & deserve to keep the track open. As mentioned that’s 10,000 jobs.
    Thankyou kindly

  • sonny

    February 21, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Once again they are beating a dead horse… Nobody cares about horse racing except the people who own the horses. They are the only ones crying. They refuse to recognize that what they do is non sustainable and the demographics have changed. The new world gamblers are internet driven. Nobody cares to go to they dirty run down facilities that run the races. They offer garbage food, dirty bathrooms, dirty floors and toothless bums for atmosphere… They could never compete with Billion dollar casinos which offer everything under the sun with no expense spared.. It time they just pack it in and go home.. with those fake 10,000 jobs… thats a joke in itself.. nowhere near that many workers.. If there are, prove it by showing the actual records of employees around the state…

  • sonny

    February 21, 2022 at 10:57 pm

    Once again they are beating a dead horse… Nobody cares about horse racing except the people who own the horses. They are the only ones crying. They refuse to recognize that what they do is non sustainable and the demographics have changed. The new world gamblers are internet driven. Nobody cares to go to their dirty run down facilities that run the races. They offer garbage food, dirty bathrooms, dirty floors and toothless bums for atmosphere… They could never compete with Billion dollar casinos which offer everything under the sun with no expense spared.. It time they just pack it in and go home.. with those fake 10,000 jobs… thats a joke in itself.. nowhere near that many workers.. If there are, prove it by showing the actual records of employees around the state… Vetinerians will no dry up. Feed stores will not close. Blacksmiths will not close their doors. Trainers, grooms and drivers will not drop dead. People will not lose their houses and farms.. If you haven’t made any money to sustain your homestead after decades of racing then it goes to show you that what you do sucks and is not a way to make a living… Sell your farm to some developer and pocket a few million and then you will have some cash to feed your horse..

  • Richard Godesky

    February 22, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    As a former Race Horse owner, (Standardbred) I have raced in Ny; Nj’ Md and Fla. Wish there were a few more in Fla. Please do not close Fla’s only one.

Comments are closed.


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