Decoupling Advances In Florida With Provisions For 'Purse Pools' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Decoupling Advances In Florida With Provisions For ‘Purse Pools’

Legislation that would permit Florida's horse and dog tracks to decouple those activities from their slot machines and card room licenses advanced after a House committee vote to approve three bills related to Gov. Rick Scott's compact with the powerful Seminole tribe that operates seven casinos in the state.

The state Senate delayed action on similar legislation after numerous amendments were filed by Sen. Joe Negron, who will take over as Senate president in the next session.

Under one of the House bills, a $10-million “purse pool” for Tampa Bay Downs would be funded annually by the Seminoles, which will pay $3 billion to the state of Florida in the first seven years of the 20-year compact. The Seminole compact would be nullified if Tampa Bay Downs were allowed to have slot machines.

The Senate bill, with Negron's amendments, creates purse pools totaling $45 million annually – $20 million from the Seminoles and an estimated $25 million from pari-mutuel permitholders that choose to cease live dog and horse racing and jai-alai wagering. Two new slots facilities – one in Dade County and one in Palm Beach County – would not be required to fund the purse pool under Negron's amendments.

Both the Senate and House have provisions that permit the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company to continue offering simulcasting, but OBS would no longer be required to conduct one day of non-pari-mutuel racing and only eight days of auctions would be required annually rather than the current 15.

In practical terms, the Senate bill would give all tracks that currently conduct Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Standardbred and Greyhound racing, along with jai-alai, the option to end those operations but keep their slots facilities. The House bill permits decoupling for Greyhound racing, Standardbred and Quarter horse racing, and allows Calder to decouple. Gulfstream Park would not be allowed to decouple, nor would jai-alai facilities, under the House bill approved by committee.

Decoupling is opposed by Florida's Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, along with horsemen's organizations representing other horse breeds and Greyhounds. Gulfstream Park lawyer Marc Dunbar recently said Gulfstream would accept decoupling if an agreement could be reached with other pari-mutuel operators in the state.

Read more about Tuesday's legislation action at Ocala Star-Banner

For a commentary on the issue, read more at Sunshine State News

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