Florida Governor Supports Racing, Not Expanded Gambling

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush paid a visit to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. intertrack wagering facility June 29, but it wasn't to place a wager. Bush was in town for a grass-roots barbecue, and he reiterated his opposition to expanded gambing.

Bush discussed a number of significant issues before an audience of several hundred people. Though his opposition to gambling expansion in the state is well-known, Bush did recognize the importance of the Thoroughbred industry.

"The horse industry, of all the pari-mutuel industries, I think, can survive quite well without other forms of gambling on their premises," Bush said. "I think the tracks can survive with the ones they already have, because it's a sport and there's a beauty to it, people can be drawn to it, and track owners are first-

The governor also said he understands the importance of the horse industry to Marion County and the surrounding area.

"I think we can work with the horse industry, which is so important to north central Florida," Bush said. "I'm not for video lotteries, slots, casinos, or for the expansion of gambling, but I do think the horse industry is vital and worthy of support."

But others believe changes need to be made to help Florida's racetracks remain competitive.

"I think the horse industry needs some help," Adena Springs South general manager Mark Roberts said. "We're going to have to keep pace with the other states and improve our purse structures. We need the addition of slots, night racing, and deregulation to create a more efficient marketplace."

Bush's presence at the event provided the audience with an opportunity to get a better understanding of his position on the issues.

"I think Gov. Bush's visit, politically, will accomplish a lot," said Sheila DiMare of Rising Hill Farm. "Certain facets of the horse industry are politically driven. I'd like to be able to speak to him about workers' compensation issues."