Even though decoupling as part of the Seminole Gaming Compact legislation was declared “dead” last Friday, March 4, a hostile decoupling amendment had been quietly filed the same day to HB 1187 and later to SB 1050 this week.
With pari-mutuel issues notoriously known to surface during the latest stages of the process, United Florida Horsemen stood strong against decoupling to ensure legislators knew our total opposition right up to today’s official conclusion of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session.
Working as NoDecoupling.com to defeat the attempt to kill live horse racing and harness racing days, and thus competitive purses in Florida, United Florida Horsemen represented nearly 350,000 racehorse owners, trainers, breeders and their employees in Florida and nationwide in the fight, spearheaded by the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association, Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the American Quarter Horse Association and U.S. Trotting.
The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Bill White issued the following statement on the defeat of decoupling today at the Session’s conclusion:
“This week’s attempts at expanding gambling in Florida were not unexpected. Obviously, Florida’s horsemen are relieved that the end-run full decoupling amendments floated during these past few days were unsuccessful, but more important than that, we are pleased to know that our state legislators have taken pause to recognize and better understand the far-reaching positive economic impact of the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred industries here in the ‘Horse Capital of the World.’
“With Florida’s laser focus on creating business and jobs, our horsemen–racehorse owners, trainers, breeders and their employees–have often felt disenfranchised as to why their economic contributions don’t seem to be on the political radar. Indeed, during this Session, thousands of people who do business in Florida’s horse racing industry and the tens of thousands of people we employ seemed to be almost unwanted, if not oddly cast aside as disposable and non-human in the push by Big Casinos to put a one-armed bandit on every Florida corner.
“Horsemen don’t think there will ever be an appropriate time or place to diminish the importance of anyone’s job or business, especially when it garners the type of big money, international interest and financial success that Florida’s horse racing industry does.
“Make no mistake, however. There will be no reprieve. Like a giant money-sucking vacuum to Florida’s economy, the Big Casino expansion forces behind decoupling are plotting their return, of that horsemen are 100 percent certain.
“Meanwhile, slot revenue will continue to be put to work in Florida the way voters intended–hand in hand with live racing days to provide economic incentives that keep us competitive with more aggressive horse racing and breeding programs in other states–states that actively continue to try and lure away our best owners, trainers, jockeys, drivers, horses and–most importantly–our many hardworking people who contribute to Florida’s economy far beyond what any stand-alone slot machine could ever do.”