Under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Monday, Florida’s jai alai frontons, quarter horse, and harness horse racing tracks may opt not to perform live events but still run poker and slot machine rooms.
Florida Welcomes Pari-Mutuel Regulation
The bill will require thoroughbred horse tracks to conduct live racing, and although greyhound racing is now illegal in Florida, permit holders could still operate card rooms and slots. Permit holders will be unable to transfer their licenses to new addresses.
In more detail, the bill named SPB 7080 deals with the conditions for pari-mutuel permit holders who choose to run live racing or sports. The bill modifies the application conditions for a pari-mutuel wagering operating license.
Specifically, the legislation bans greyhound permit holders from running live races. Simultaneously, the bill allows permit holders for jai alai, harness horse racing, and quarter horse racing to opt-out of conducting live racing or sports.
This ensures that such permit holders are no longer required to run live races or games in order to maintain their pari-mutuel facilities.
The bill received little discussion, although some in the pari-mutuel industry expressed suspicions. Mike Rogers, president of racing for the Stronach Group, which operates the Gulfstream Park thoroughbred racetrack in Broward County, suggests that if pari-mutuels stop live events, they should face a financial penalty.
In his words, Rogers added: “The net effect of this decision places that thoroughbred industry at a seriously competitive and economic disadvantage.”
Invest in Thoroughbred Racing
Since pari-mutuel facilities would be able to reduce their operating costs, they would be able to invest more in promotions and player incentive programs to draw new customers.
Rogers proposed that permit holders who do not host live events contribute to a popular purse pool to assist the thoroughbred industry in maintaining a complete racing schedule.
Rogers argued that putting his casino at a loss would endanger the timetable, affecting one of the most desirable thoroughbred racing and breeding markets in the world.
At pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, slot machines are permitted. Other Florida pari-mutuels will run poker rooms, but not slots. Greyhound racing was outlawed in Florida by voters in 2018. The prohibition went into effect at the end of December.