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Politics

Calder Operating Slots Against the Law Since July 2, Claim Horsemen

July 16, 2013 - 6:00pm

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering jumped the gun July 2, when it issued Calder Casino and Race Course a slot machine license before it had provided the Division with a purse agreement.

The Florida Horsemens Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) -- which, for the moment is simulcasting races without a purse agreement -- advised the Miami-Dade-based racetrack officials in a letter sent Tuesday.

Under Florida law, the Division must have on file a binding agreement between any thoroughbred pari-mutuel permit holder and the FHBPA that governs the payment of purses on live thoroughbred races at the permit holders pari-mutuel facility before awarding or renewing a license to operate slot machines.

Calders slot license was renewed, even though no such agreement now exists.

FHBPA spokesman Kent Stirling told Sunshine State News, "Really, our only recourse is legal" if Calder continues to ignore the law. "This is the first year the track has submitted something different from what they are supposed to," and have previously always followed Chapter 551 of the Florida Statutes.

In part, the statute says this:

No slot machine license or renewal thereof shall be issued to an applicant holding a permit under chapter 550 to conduct pari-mutuel wagering meets of thoroughbred racing unless the applicant has on file with the division a binding written agreement between the applicant and the Florida Horsemens Benevolent and Protective Association Inc., governing the payment of purses on live thoroughbred races conducted at the licensees pari-mutuel facility.

The FHBPA board of directors voted Monday to withdraw its consent to Calders simulcasting, effective July 25, and to take any appropriate additional action should Calder not finalize a statutory purse agreement by that time.

Purse negotiations have been ongoing with Calder officials since last year, said FHBPA President Phil Combest. After months of good-faith efforts by the FHBPA, the fact that Calder would receive and operate its slot license is a complete slap in the face to our horsemen and their many businesses that depend upon quality live horse racing to keep people employed.

Calder claims its slots license had already been renewed when a 10-year purse contract between the course and the horsemen was signed in 2010.

The Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering is one of 11 divisions under the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

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