FTBOA Wants Racetrack in Ocala, VLTs

The board of directors for the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association has formulated an ambitious legislative agenda that would bring live racing to Ocala and get video lottery terminals installed at the state's racetracks.

A bill being proposed by the FTBOA would transfer an Ocala-area jai alai permit to a Thoroughbred permit, thus opening the door for live racing in the cradle of the Florida breeding industry. Donald Dizney, FTBOA president, called for Magna Entertainment Corp. and Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. to combine their efforts to get a racetrack built in Ocala.

"What we want is a Thoroughbred track and only one Thoroughbred track in Ocala," Dizney said. "We encourage OBS and Magna to get together to make this happen."

The FTBOA VLT proposal has already been presented to a majority of horsemen's groups and the tracks in the state, according to a press release issued Thursday. Dizney said the Florida Thoroughbred industry has reached a critical juncture because two Indian casinos -- one in South Florida and another in Tampa -- are set to open.

"(The legislation) gives the pari-mutuels the ability to compete with Seminole Indian casinos and cruise ship gaming," Dizney said. "We have received support from Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs but have not heard any input from the horsemen or Calder. We need a consensus as soon as possible to introduce the legislation next year."

Further changes the FTBOA is seeking is elimination of the 7 p.m. curfew for Thoroughbred racing, which would allow for nighttime programs; and authorizing tracks to remain open all year through a combination of live racing and dark day simulcasting.