As the Florida legislature prepares to end its annual session May 2, chances appear very slim that it will pass either of two slot machine bills being sought by the Thoroughbred industry.
Churchill Downs Inc. filed a lawsuit April 24 asking a federal court to dissolve the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group. In a suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, CDI, CDI-owned Calder Race Course, and Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co. also are seeking an injunction to prevent the THG and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association from "agreeing on uniform terms for the sale of signals, boycotting racetracks and ADW operators that do not comply with their demands."
After the start of Calder Race Course's opening-day card of nine races April 21, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association agreed to permit the racetrack to send its signal to New York's off-track betting companies. Six OTB outlets in that state received the signal for the last three races.
Calder Race Course will open its 38th season April 21 with a schedule that again focuses on what it calls "big event day" Saturdays with multiple stakes. Calder's first highlight will be its inaugural Turf Million April 26, with four turf stakes with total purses of $1.15 million.
The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said April 16 though advance deposit wagering remains a major issue, it believes there has been progress in other areas of contract talks for the Calder Race Course meet that begins April 21.
Florida horsemen and officials at Calder Race Course and parent company Churchill Downs Inc. met April 14 but did not agree on contracts for the Calder meet that begins April 21.
The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has given the new national Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group authority to negotiate terms with advance deposit wagering companies for betting on races at South Florida Thoroughbred racetracks. Also, Florida horsemen want an agreement on slots revenue with Calder before any contracts are signed.
As Calder Race Course prepares to open its 2008 meet April 21, the question of how to divide any future slot-machine revenue is holding up contract talks between the Miami Gardens, Fla., track and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protection Association.
C. Kenneth Dunn, who since April 1999 has served as senior vice president of Florida operations for Churchill Downs Inc. and has spent 18 years at Calder Race Course, is stepping down, the company announced April 9. Dunn will continue to serve as an adviser for Calder through Aug. 1.
The Florida Senate approved March 13 two slot-machine bills that would help the state's Thoroughbred racetracks and other pari-mutuel facilities. However, there is considerable opposition to the bills in the Florida House of Representatives, and the influential Seminole Tribe of Florida is expressing concerns about the legislation.
Gulfstream Park reported its all-sources pari-mutuel handle is down about 5% and on-track handle off 30% year-to-date through early March.
Two bills that would help Thoroughbred racetracks, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co., and the state's other pari-mutuel facilities will be on the calendar when the Florida legislature begins its annual two-month session March 4.
Isle Racing & Casino at Pompano Park is delaying a decision on possible cancellation of some March and April racing dates.
Isle Racing & Casino at Pompano Park will cut race purses about 35% starting Feb. 22, and will not hold harness racing on Monday and Wednesday nights during most of March and April.
Gulfstream Park's $75,000 Shotintheheart Handicap Feb. 14 will be the first of as many as four Florida-bred stakes it will add this season.
Two Florida Senate leaders are sponsoring separate gaming bills, with goals that include increased revenue for the state's three Thoroughbred tracks and for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. As with previous years' gaming proposals in Florida, the bills face opposition from gambling opponents in the legislature.
Voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla., approved slot machines for Calder Race Course and the county's two other pari-mutuel facilities in a Jan. 29 referendum. They passed the ballot issue by a 63%-37% margin--a decisive victory in a race many observers expected would be close.
Calder Race Course president Ken Dunn expects "a tough race" during the last days before Miami-Dade County's Jan. 29 vote on slot machines for Calder and two other pari-mutuel facilities.
On-track handle at Calder Race Course fell 24% during the 2007 portion of its Tropical meet, according to data obtained from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Calder's simulcast handle fell 26% compared with the same period in 2006.
After cutting its daily purses about 7% in early November, Calder Race Course quietly restored the money during the final weeks of its meet that ends Jan. 2. But questions concerning Calder and other South Florida tracks linger into the new year.
The Florida House of Representatives asked the state Supreme Court Nov. 19 to prevent Gov. Charlie Crist from implementing a Class III slot-machine deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida without the legislature's approval.
Calder Race Course in South Florida has launched its campaign for the Jan. 29, 2008, Miami-Dade County vote on whether to allow Las Vegas-style slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities.
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