FL Horsemen Hope Study Tells Racing's Story

Concerned the legislature may not get full picture of economic impact of industry.

Horsemen in Florida, concerned their voice may not be heard as the state examines gambling laws, are collaborating on an economic impact study.

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said it has joined the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders' and Owners' Association to produce the study. Industry participants must complete a survey by Sept. 20.

"Kentucky's horse industry reported (Sept. 6) that it produces a $3 billion annual economic impact," Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said. "For years, Florida has ranked right along with Kentucky among the top three states as economic drivers in the industry—there's a reason Ocala is known as the 'Horse Capital of the World,' and South Florida is hailed as the road to the Kentucky Derby."

The Florida HBPA said the groups want to "ensure that the impact of Florida's horse racing industry professionals is well-represented as the Florida legislature conducts a first-ever comprehensive evaluation of pari-mutuel and gaming laws."

The initial results of a study conducted by Spectrum Gaming, a consultant with close ties to the casino gambling industry, portray a pari-mutuel industry in decline with a strong reliance on card rooms and slot machines. There is, however, little information in the study regarding the broader economic impact of horse racing and breeding.

"The Thoroughbred sector is clearly the healthiest of the sectors but it, too, has sustained steep declines in live handle," the Spectrum Gaming study says. "What's keeping many of the other pari-mutuel facilities open is card room and slots revenue but eventually, if the downward trend continues, it is likely that even those revenues will not be enough to keep some Greyhound tracks and (jai-alai) frontons open.

"Many operators acknowledged to us that the prospect of possibly operating slot machines was enough for them to continue to stay in business and sustain significant losses. In (fiscal year) 2012, the pari-mutuel operations at the Greyhound tracks sustained operating losses of $35 million, jai alai $14 million and harness $2.4 million. Only the Thoroughbred tracks were able to realize an operating profit, $10.6 million, from their pari-mutuel operations."

The Florida horsemen's survey is available here.