As many of you are no doubt aware, there is a debate going on in the State Legislature to come up with a new bill to cover gaming expansion and the compact with the Seminoles. The Senate passed their bill SB 8, and the House passed their bill HB 7037, but that’s just the beginning.
As Mills Lane famously said before each boxing match, “Let’s get it on!”
And get it on they did. Last night the ball was in the House’s court. Here’s what they did. Follow closely here it gets tricky.
The House took the Senate bill SB 8 and gutted all the contents, and replaced the contents with the language from HB 7037 and sent it back to the Senate. So now SB 8 is the working bill, but it only includes the language from HB 7037 (which is now SB 8). Confusing?
So now the ‘hot potato’ is back in the Senate’s lap. What will they do? How will they react? No one can say. But what we do know is that they have 4 weeks to get this compact done.
Oh, and there is one other thing. What if the Seminoles do not agree with the compact? Then what happens? The world of politics is extremely complex and ever-changing.
One thing remains consistent. The Florida HBPA stands firmly against any language that includes decoupling in whatever bill ends up being “the one”.
FHBPA Executive Director Glen Berman said, “We are doing the best we can to prevent any ultimate bill that may be passed, from including any language that hurts our industry, especially here in South Florida.”
Decoupling In Plain Terms
Think of decoupling like this. Suppose you were going to rent an apartment or office space for one or more years. However, the lease includes a clause that says the landlord has the right to evict you at any time.
How could anyone feel comfortable living under those conditions?
How can a business make long-term plans with no assurances they will have a place to operate?
Decoupling’s Negative Side Effects
Should decoupling language make its way back into the bill, jai alai, greyhound racing, and harness racing will probably be the first to go. This will turn those facilities into Casinos, where only slots and some table games will be offered.
How does this affect the thoroughbreds?
Simple. This will most likely slash intra-state betting on our product. Patrons who will frequent those casinos will be, for the great majority at least, slot players, no one will be going to those casinos with the intent to wager on horses. The reduced intra-state handle will negatively affect purses.
Also, under the provisions of the former SB 8 (which is now no longer the current SB 8) the Seminoles would have allocated funds of $20 million to thoroughbred racing.
Sounds great if it made its way back as an amendment, right? Maybe not. The funds were to be split between Tampa Bay and Gulfstream. The proposed split, however, would heavily favor Tampa. They would get $10 million, then another $2.5 million. The remainder would leave approximately $3.75 million toward purses at Gulfstream Park, and $3.75 million would go to Gulfstream Park IF, of course, there was a 50/50 split between the purse account and the track.
This would provide less to reinvest into a product that consistently grows handle and attracts new money from horseplayers around the world.
The Bottom Line
Today, horsemen currently enjoy protections that allow us to get up every morning and go out there, and tend to our business without a bunch of distractions.
Decoupling will disrupt that confidence and leave us forever wondering, “is today the day?”
No one can predict what will happen, but as things heat up we will be sure to keep you informed.
In the meantime, you can follow the progress of SB 8 here: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00008
As always if you have questions or concerns please contact our offices by phone or by email. You can find our contact information here: http://floridahbpa.com/contact/