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Kent Stirling
Executive Director
Gaming Review Must Account for Horse Racing Industry

The professional horsemen of Florida’s horse racing industry have noted their approval of the appointment of state Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, as chairman of the Florida House Select Committee on Gaming.

It is imperative that the development of any long-term gaming policy take into account the $2.2 billion annual economic impact of Florida’s horse racing industry. Legitimate horse racing in Florida employs over 104,000 people annually, and is responsible for our Ocala-based horse breeding industry annually ranking among the top three states in the nation.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association represents nearly 6,000 thoroughbred horsemen who own and train racehorses in Florida.

We look forward to ensuring our lawmakers understand that legitimate Florida horse racing has been responsible for a recent uptick in overall national wagering handle, and that millions of dollars continue to flow through the State of Florida thanks to our widespread economic impact and the international allure of our Ocala-based breeding industry.

Let me be clear: Our hard-working horsemen will not allow the recent rash of phony horse-related events to enable a greedy few to squander our enormous job-creation engine for the people of Florida, or make a mockery of our state to the international horse racing community.

The House Select Committee on Gaming's responsibility will be to conduct a comprehensive review of Florida's gaming industries and to recommend legislative actions to solidify a unified, long-term policy for the future of gaming in Florida that serves the best interest of all Floridians.

The committee "will be charged with looking at Florida's gaming activity holistically to determine ways to improve the state's oversight of the industry," said House Speaker Will Weatherford, who announced Schenck’s appointment.  "Under Representative Schenck's leadership, I'm confident we can determine what changes -- if any -- are needed to develop a comprehensive policy for gaming in Florida," Weatherford said.

The committee also will review the Gaming Compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Following this review, it will recommend potential areas for renegotiation and whether to renew its authorization for banked card games.

The committee will issue its findings and recommendations before the 2014 Legislative Session.

"Gaming is an issue that requires a careful consideration of existing law before any decisions are made regarding the industry's future in Florida," Schenck said.  "I look forward to conducting a comprehensive review to set a long-term vision for the future of gaming in Florida."

Kent Stirling is the executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. He can be contacted at [email protected].

© Florida Voices

Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013