With marketing resources, fan-friendly facilities and competitive opportunities for harness horsemen seemingly disappearing by the day in Florida, the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association (FSBOA) joined the NoDecoupling.com campaign this week to further solidify horsemen’s unified voice in state-level legislative issues.
NoDecoupling.com comprises the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners Association and their respective national “parents,” the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the American Quarter Horse Association and now, U.S. Trotting. Altogether, NoDecoupling.com represents over 350,000 horsemen nationwide and over 10,000 in Florida alone.
Voraciously passionate about their sport, Florida’s harness horsemen are frustrated and tired of being pigeonholed, where the ability for established patrons and potential fans to watch and enjoy harness racing has literally been cordoned off to such a tight and unpleasant space that horsemen are losing hope of creating or even maintaining their audience in Florida.
“If decoupling passes, harness racing in Florida would likely be headed toward extinction,” FSBOA President and Executive Director Joe Pennacchio predicts. “Book it.”
What people say about harness racing and what the harness horsemen see are two different things. The presumption that decoupling is a “done deal.” The insistence that harness racing is dying while, in reality, virtually every aspect of horsemen’s once-thriving business seems to have been maneuvered into hopelessness.
“Across South Florida, shiny new casinos beckon slot machine players with air conditioning, service and new amenities, while harness racing fans must sweat it out with no shelter and bare-bones amenities,” Pennacchio explains. “Some casino facility owners seem to be already preparing for decoupling by making customers’ pari-mutuel experience as miserable as possible. It’s not exactly an equation that helps to grow, much less restore a market.”
“Our established businesses and employees should be more important to Florida than out-of-state companies lured with taxpayer funds that–more often than not–don’t fulfill their job creation promises,” Pennacchio adds. “It’s time Florida recognize our horsemen as voters, taxpayers, citizens and businesspeople worth keeping.”
Known as “Standardbreds,” harness racing horses descend from Colonial times before automobiles when the spirit of competition would strike two horse and buggy drivers in transit. Much like drag racers give the classic “thumbs up,” the drivers of yesteryear would enjoy an impromptu matchup. Soon, the buggy races became organized and the sport of Standardbred or “harness” racing began.
Although their style is all different, it’s horsemen’s love of the sport and their animals that bonds Florida’s Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Standardbred owners, trainers and breeders. On the business side, their futures are inextricably linked in the complex wagering world of Interstate and Inter-Track Simulcasting.
The NoDecoupling.com campaign seeks to educate Florida Legislators about how horse racing of all kinds provides greater and more extensive economic impact than stand-alone casinos, particularly because of the cost and labor involved in training and maintaining a racehorse. Decoupling would immediately decrease purses, making Florida the loser against other, more horse racing-friendly states that recognize the sport’s superior economic benefits.
In Case You Missed It
• Florida Well-Represented at Prestigious 2015 Breeders’ Cup, Thanks to Continued Live Racing Days, Competitive Purse Incentives
• Decoupling Could Kill Florida’s Horse Industry, Ocala Star-Banner Editorial Board Writes
• Meet the World-Famous Florida Horsemen Who Oppose Decoupling: The McKathan Brothers Taught Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah How to Be a Racehorse
• SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Voices Opposition to Florida Horse Racing Decoupling
• Read What National Horse Racing Media Has To Say About Florida’s Misguided “Decoupling” Proposal
• Florida Could “Decouple” Horse Racing, Breeding Right Out of Business
• Florida Horsemen Launch NoDecoupling.com