Rep. Dan Daley’s late push to give a new chance to standardbred harness horse racing in Florida cleared a second House committee Monday.
The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee gave a 14-1 nod to Daley’s parimutuel wagering bill (HB 1269) that would allow parimutuel permit holders at any kind of race track to host harness races, even if that’s not what the permit was for.
Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat whose family is in the standardbred business, offered the bill as a lifeline to an industry that has more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida.
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.” That meant the more lucrative casino parts of the business no longer needed racing to stay in business.
“In doing so, what we also did — I think this was an unintended consequence — was foreclose on any opportunity for that industry, and we’re talking about the standardbred industry, to race at all,” Daley said. “No new permits can be issued. No transfers can be conducted of existing permits.”
Daley tried in vain last year to find a way to protect harness racing. As he had predicted last year, the state’s last harness track, Isle Casino Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, is closing at the end of this season. The track is expected to be torn down to make way for larger casino operations there.
There still, however, are some thoroughbred tracks operating.
“This bill simply gives existing permit holders the opportunity to offer standardbred racing in this state,” Daley said.
HB 1269 was near death two weeks ago, but has been brought back, clearing its second of three committees.
Last year, Daley’s proposal died from lack of support in the Senate. This year, the Senate counterpart (SB 1794), from Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones has gotten no committee hearings.