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Gambling Expanding Statewide Even As Florida Senate Gaming Committee Considers Proposed Bills

Kent H. Stirling, FHBPA Executive Director
March 4, 2014
As the Florida Senate Gaming Committee began deliberation on hundreds of pages of proposed new gambling and pari-mutuel laws at its meeting on March 3, 2014, word of a strange construction project in South Marion County has the area near The Villages buzzing about whether the structure is a card room or a horse racetrack.
According to Florida horse racing industry sources, unknown horse-related competitive events will take place there on March 17, despite the fact that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was twice declared illegal by a court of law.
Speaking on behalf of nearly 7,000 collective racehorse owners and trainers, Florida horse racing industry officials confirm the project is NOT Thoroughbred racing.  And it’s definitely NOT American Quarter Horse racing, either.
The American Quarter Horse Association and its Florida chapter, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) report that no one has contacted either organization in reference to the South Marion project to apply for accreditation as legitimate Quarter Horse racing.
“No one really knows exactly what type of contrived horse activity the South Marion project is intending to conduct.  We can only hope that more phony racing has not been used as an excuse to allow a year ’round card room,” said Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Executive Director Kent Stirling.  “It’s a good example of how unchecked gambling is expanding statewide at the direct expense of Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry.”
In 2012, an elderly horsemen was duped into renting his American Quarter Horses for what he thought was a practice session under the auspices of the South Marion Real Estate Holdings pari-mutuel permit.   He reported seeing Florida regulators and law enforcement officials on hand at the event, which made him initially believe what he was doing was legitimate horse racing, but upon later consideration, he felt he had been misled.  Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form reported on the story.
Representatives from both the FHBPA and FQHRA attended the Senate Gaming Committee hearing yesterday.  To access the video replay and all meeting materials, go to:, or go to our blog at for all the direct hyperlinks.
“At stake are the many jobs created by our members, the vast majority of whom are small businesses,” Stirling said.  “We are substantially concerned with the ultimate outcome.”