Florida DPMW: No Hearing on Barrel Racing

Decision in effect halts the opponents’ effort to prevent Gretna Racing from opening

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering on Nov. 18 dismissed a request by two Quarter Horse associations for an administrative hearing on questions of the legality of Gretna Racing LLC’s Quarter Horse license, which it plans to use for pari-mutuel barrel racing at its facility in Gretna, Fla.

Gretna Racing’s meet, scheduled to open Dec. 1, will be the first pari-mutuel barrel racing in Florida.  Gretna is about 25 miles west of Tallahassee. The National Barrel Horse Association is not aware of pari-mutuel barrel racing in any states.

The dismissal, issued jointly by the parent Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, in effect halts the opponents’ effort to prevent Gretna Racing from opening and also delays any prospect of a rescission of the racing license the Florida DPMW issued Oct. 19 to Gretna Racing. But a renewed appeal or a lawsuit are possible next steps.

On Nov. 3, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association filed a petition with the Florida DPMW asking that it revoke the license it issued to Gretna Racing or refer the matter to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

The Nov. 18 dismissal leaves the Quarter Horse associations with two options.

They can file an amended petition to the Florida DPMW by Dec. 3.

If they don’t file an amended appeal, the Nov. 18 order will be considered final.  In that situation, the Quarter Horse groups would be able to file an appeal in a Florida district court.

Another administrative challenge by the Quarter Horse groups remains on track.

On Nov. 10, they asked the Division of Administrative Hearings to hold a hearing on their contention that the Florida DPMW does not have authority to issue the license it awarded Gretna Racing on Oct. 19. Their contentions include their view that Gretna Racing is preparing for a sport that is not legal as a Florida pari-mutuel event.

On Nov. 17, the Division of Administrative Hearings scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13-14. A ruling is likely next January or February. Whether it is in favor or against the Gretna Racing license, the patties would have the prospect of appealing with a lawsuit in state courts.

In the Nov.18 dismissal, the Florida DPMW said it determined that the two groups did not establish legal standing, establish material facts needed for an administrative hearing or comply with various rules for requesting a hearing.

In early October, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association sent letters to the Florida DPMW and its parent,  asking them to reject Gretna Racing’s application. The two Thoroughbred groups and the two Quarter Horse groups maintain that pari-mutuel barrel racing is not authorized under the state’s laws.

However, Gretna Racing’s plan includes having Quarter Horses as the majority of horses in its barrel races and thus meets a state law’s requirement for the breeds that can be used under  a Quarter Horse license.

On Nov. 18, the Florida DPMW and its parent rejected two other barrel racing-related petitions from the two Quarter Horse racing associations. In both cases, the regulators said the requests were “premature” because they are still reviewing license applications to which the associations rejected.

One dismissal concerned an application by Hamilton Downs Horsetrack in Jasper, Fla., for a license under which it plans to use its Quarter Horse racing permit to hold pari-mutuel barrel racing.

Hamilton Downs on Nov. 4 filed applications to hold 20 racing performances Dec. 10-19 this year and 20 racing performances Jan. 7-16 in 2012. It is the second Florida group to seek pari-mutuel barrel racing under a Quarter Horse permit. Jasper is about 70 miles west of Jacksonville and about 70 miles east of Tallahassee.

The Florida DPMW has not indicated when it might issue a decision on Hamilton Downs’ application.

The second dismissal concerned Gretna Racing’s application for a license for a poker room. Gretna Racing will be eligible for such a license once it begins its racing cards.

Florida pari-mutuels’ poker rooms can be open 365 days a year.

The Florida HBPA and its allied groups maintain that Gretna Racing is using barrel racing as a low-cost way to have a potentially lucrative poker room.