Without Florida Slots Deal, MEC Proceeds With Arbitration

Unable to strike a deal with the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on revenue from slot machines, Magna Entertainment Corp. said April 28 it plans to proceed with arbitration under Florida statute to reach an agreement.

The Florida HBPA, which represents horsemen at Gulfstream Park, has been in negotiations with MEC on revenue for purses. Gulfstream is in line to install 1,500 machines, less than anticipated late last year.

In a statement, MEC chairman and chief executive officer Frank Stronach said the company, Florida HBPA, and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association anticipated a slots tax rate of 40%-45% and as many as 2,500 to 3,000 machines. "Regrettably, the state tax rate came out at 50%, and we were allocated a maximum of only 1,500 machines," Stronach said. "For our part, we believe we have made significant efforts since January to secure an agreement with the Florida HBPA that would allow us to expand Gulfstream Park to offer slot-machine gaming to customers in our market area. Unfortunately, the latest proposals from the Florida HBPA have made it impracticable to make this expansion."

MEC said it intends to pursue its slot- machine license during the arbitration process and continue its negotiations with the Florida HBPA in the hope of securing a purse agreement prior to the conclusion of the statutory arbitration process.