Florida Closer To Decoupling

Published: February 10, 2016 06:21 pm EST

Reports from Florida indicate that the state's laws requiring racetracks to conduct live racing in order to host expanded gaming are still alive, but the legislation enabling decoupling took a step forward on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, a House panel overwhelmingly endorsed three gambling bills that would ratify a $3 billion deal between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. One of those bills, PCB RAC 16-02, allows for decoupling. The decoupling only applies to greyhound racing, Pompano Park, Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park Race Track. Thus, any of those operations could retain expanded gaming without hosting live racing if the bill passes. Not included in that amendment to the gaming compact are Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

However, 40 pages of amendments to these proposals were recently filed by Sen. Joe Negron. As a result, a Senate committee expected to vote on the legislation postponed consideration of the measures in light of the amendments. One of those amendments would reportedly bolster purses by $50 million while previous measures allotted $10 million.

The decoupling has drawn harsh and vocal criticism from the horse racing community in Florida.

“The casinos asked us to join them. I feel like the girl with the dowry,’’ said breeder-owner Tonya Jurgens told the Miami Herald. “Now that they are making big corporate profits they want to kick us to the curb but use our dowry.”

The Senate committee is expected to vote on its version of the bill next week.