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''Glimmer of hope'' Dept.: FL pari-mutuels

A sliver of hope for Pompano Park

By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink
8 December 2021
Recently, as part of the compact agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Indian Tribe, decoupling was passed, and Caesars owned Pompano Park informed horsemen that 2021-2022 was the last season for live harness racing in the state.

Decoupling allows the racetrack license holders for Harness Racing and Jai-Alai in Florida to discontinue pari-mutuel racing in leu of casino gaming.

But wait, there is now a sliver of hope for the horsemen at Pompano Park.

In a stunning rejection of Florida’s attempt to give the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on sports betting, a federal district court judge in the District of Columbia ruled Monday (Nov. 22) that the compact violates federal Indian gaming law and invalidated the entire agreement, halting all sports betting and gaming expansion in Florida indefinitely.

Just a couple of days later the Seminole Tribe suspended its online sports betting.

The ruling by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich put a halt on the sports betting that was launched by the Seminole Tribe on Nov. 1. But in a double hit, it also blocks the tribe’s Hard Rock casinos in Broward and Hillsborough counties from becoming full Las Vegas-style casinos.

Part of the compact included the decoupling bill.

Just a few years ago Florida voters passed a bill that normally would require any changes in gaming laws, such as decoupling, to be put to a vote by the state population.

The decoupling bill was snuck into the Seminole Compact so that it would not have to be voted on by the people of the state.

Thus, if the Seminole Compact is rejected, then decoupling is not legal, and Caesars would have to continue featuring pari-mutuel harness racing and meet state requirements on number of live race dates in order to maintain their casino license.

Noted Florida State Representative and Standardbred horseman, Dan Daley, the son of trainer-driver Dan and Ann-Mari Daley, has been the biggest advocate for harness racing in Tallahassee.
    “While the Seminole Compact was passed separately from the Senate Bill 8A, which ultimately ends harness racing in Florida,” Daley explained. “There is a chance that the undoing of the compact also undoes Senate Bill 8A. The enacting language in 8A ties it to the Compact. We are reviewing legal and legislative options as this situation continues to unfold.”
Thus, the sliver of hope for harness racing to remain at Pompano Park is just that, a sliver of hope, as the Seminole Tribe has a long history of usually getting what they want.

In this case, the Seminoles allowed decoupling to be part of their compact as an agreement with Florida Governor Richard DeSantis. If push came to shove, the Seminoles have stated in the past they do not care if decoupling is included in the Compact as long as they get the controlling rights to sports wagering in the state and full gaming at their casinos.

If the compact is null and void, then there might be a chance that Caesars will come back to the negotiation table with the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and re-discuss the departure deal with the horsemen that was taken off the table before the decoupling bill was added to the Seminole Tribe Compact.

Sometimes, just a sliver of hope is all that is needed.

Harnesslink article


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