Last week, President Bill White, Executive Director Glen Berman and I made our way to Tallahassee to meet with thirteen State Senators and Representatives. The main focus of our trip was to keep our legislators updated and educated on the role of the FHBPA and the issues facing our industry.
We discussed a wide range of issues such as full decoupling, partial decoupling, a purse pool and Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). It was made clear that the issue of decoupling was of paramount importance to us and that we do not support it. Technological innovation has outpaced legislation, which has caused horsemen to lose ground when it comes to allocation of funds from wagering. Funds allocated for purses and breeders are inadequate now and would be further negatively impacted if legislation as currently proposed is enacted.
We also reviewed current proposals such as Senate Bill 8 and how it could be improved. We stressed that the horse racing industry is at a crossroads. It is imperative to have the support of our legislators – without it, the racing industry will not survive. Several representatives asked that we provide additional input and language when appropriate.
There is much work to be done. The session convenes on March 7, 2017, and our understanding is that the Gaming bills will be moved on early and pushed through vigorously. We will be vigilant and continue to provide a strong push for no-decoupling but with the realization that we must be prepared for all outcomes.
Chester A. Bishop