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Letter from President Stephen Screnci

It’s been a tough year for everyone. Thanks to a strong partnership between Gulfstream Park and the FHBPA, and the cooperation and dedication of our horsemen, our backstretch workers and our jockeys, South Florida racing was able to avoid the shutdowns experienced in much of the country. But getting through the pandemic has been anything but easy.
We had good news this week – owners with proof of full Covid-19 vaccination will be allowed into the Gulfstream paddock. There are signs of a slow return to normalcy. But the FHBPA is looking to be better than business as usual. To that end, we will focus on improved communication with our membership, starting with this Letter from the President.
There are issues of vital importance to our industry at play – decoupling legislation in Tallahassee, contract negotiations with the Stronach Group and CDI, capital improvements at Gulfstream and Palm Meadows. Our owners and trainers need to be informed, and it will be our mandate to provide that information to you.
With regard to the decoupling bill, SR 7080, I drove up to Tallahassee on April 12 to give testimony on behalf of the horsemen. We are in favor of the bill, but agree with the Stronach Group that, in its current form, it will create an unequal playing field and put the thoroughbred industry at a competitive disadvantage. The casinos that decouple will be able to take the revenue that was used to host live racing or jai alai matches and spend it on marketing and capital improvements, which could have a negative impact on business at the Gulfstream Park casino. We struggle with purses as it is here in Florida and we rely a great deal on the portion of the purses that come from slots revenue. Any future decrease will inevitably result in less race days and a smaller industry as a whole.
It says volumes about the Stronach Group that they are choosing not to decouple to support the industry, and there are ways these inequities can be addressed, whether it be through a purse pool collected from those casinos who choose to decouple, or as a simple tax deduction for the thoroughbred permit holders who choose not to. We hope the legislature will support the Stronach Group and Florida’s horsemen.
This bill is still making its way through the process, and we will keep you updated as it progresses. Keep an eye out for updates and in-depth reports on other areas of concern for horsemen. We will provide details on the many programs supported by FHBPA to the benefit of the industry, and profiles of the Board members who represent you. You can follow FHBPA on Facebook and Twitter and visit our website to learn more about the work of the organization.
President Stephen Screnci, FHBPA