Judge Rules Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing in Violation of Law

An administrative law judge in Florida ruled May 6 the state can't allow pari-mutuel barrel racing under current law.

The ruling follows months of taxpayer-funded litigation in defense by of pari-mutuel barrel racing, for which there is no legislative authorization. Barrel racing began at Gretna Racing, which is located in the Florida panhandle, as a means to offer other forms of gambling.

"The State of Florida should be pleased with this ruling," Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association (FQHRA) president Steve Fisch, DVM, said in a release. "It is well-written and consistent with the law. This ruling will lend confidence to both Florida Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeders and owners that Florida is a legally safe and prosperous state in which to race and breed a superior horse."

Horsemen's groups have argued pari-mutuel barrel racing is damaging to regular racetracks because only 10-12 horses are needed per day, and hardly any money is wagered. They called it "a farce."

"As for Florida's professional racing industry horsemen who have fought this battle, we have essentially paid the litigation bill at both ends," Fisch said. "And we have endured the irony of knowing the very same owners of that new gambling product were actually litigating on behalf of the State of Florida against us.

"But this trial has been about far more than serving justice for an outright hijack of Florida's legislative and regulatory process by a few special interests."

Horsemen said Gretna Racing threatened the integrity of wagering and racing in the United States "by virtually eliminating the need for horses, independent horsemen, and legitimate racing."

In the ruling, administrative law judge John Van Laningham said the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering policy that treats barrel racing as the equivalent of traditional Quarter Horse racing is an un-adopted rule that violates Florida statutes. Those impacted by the ruling are entitled to "juridical review" and can file an appeal within 30 days.

“While we are disappointed with the technical issue identified by the judge in his ruling which will impede the continuation of the racing format currently being conducted in Gretna, we are pleased that the vast majority of the claims by the FQHRA were dismissed by the administrative law judge," Creek Entertainment Gretna spokeswoman Allison North Jones said May 6 in a statement. "We intend to make the requisite modification to the racing to comply with the judge’s order while we appeal its arbitrariness.”


Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

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