A state appeals court in Tallahassee, Fla., has given Gretna Racing LLC what could be a final legal "no" in its bid to resume pari-mutuel barrel racing.
On March 17, the First District Court of Appeal denied Gretna Racing's request for a rehearing of its recent ruling that will prohibit the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering from allowing Gretna Racing or any other Florida entity to conduct pari-mutuel barrel racing.
On Feb. 7, that court upheld an administrative court's ruling from last May that said the Florida DPMW violated a state rulemaking process in 2011 when it granted Gretna Racing a Quarter Horse license to hold pari-mutuel barrel racing.
In a one sentence statement March 17, the appeals court said: "Appellant's motion filed February 24, 2014, for rehearing, rehearing en banc and clarification is denied."
The Florida Quarter Horse Tracks Association, an affiliate of Gretna Racing, is the appellant.
Gretna Racing and its affiliate have the option of asking the Supreme Court of Florida to review the appellate court's ruling.
Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents Gretna Racing, did not immediately return a phone call the afternoon of March 17. He is a minority owner of Gretna Racing, located in Gretna, Fla., about 25 miles west of Tallahassee.
The Poarch Creek Tribe, based in Alabama, is the majority owner of Gretna Racing.
The appeals court Feb. 7 agreed with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, which last May 6 ordered the Florida DPMW to not allow pari-mutuel barrel racing at Gretna Racing. The administrative court acted on a formal complaint filed by Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Quarter Horse group.
Last June, the Florida DPMW allowed Gretna Racing to hold pari-mutuel "flag drop" races with Quarter Horses.
Gretna Racing continues to have a poker room and daily simulcasting that includes Thoroughbred signals.
In December 2011, Gretna Racing began holding what is widely believed to be the first pari-mutuel barrel racing in the United States, under its DPMW-issued Quarter Horse license. By using Quarter Horses in its races, Gretna Racing met what the Florida DPMW deemed to be a criterion for a license.
The Florida HBPA and Florida QHRA have maintained that Gretna's pari-mutuel barrel racing is a low-cost way of gaining approval for a poker room and taking simulcasts—and a possible casino if Florida allows them at pari-mutuels outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
In its Feb. 7 ruling, the appeals court said:
"The issue in this case is not whether barrel match racing can be or should be considered 'horseracing' for purposes of the state's pari-mutuel wagering laws. Instead, the narrow issue in this case is whether the Division's policy of treating barrel match racing as an authorized form of Quarter Horse racing is an unadopted rule."
The appeals court said it agreed with the following decision that the administrative court issued in May:
"A policy which allows pari-mutuel wagering to be conducted on a previously unrecognized activity by deeming that activity to be 'Quarter Horse racing' is without question a statement of general applicability having the force and effect of law. Florida administrative law does not allow an agency to establish such a policy stealthily by the issuance of expedient licenses; this is equally true whether the policy is highly controversial or widely praised. To be legal and enforceable, a policy which operates as law must be formally adopted in public, through the transparent process of the rulemaking procedure."