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Florida's poorest county gets newest gambling venue

If you had any doubts that gambling in Florida continues to expand, take a look at the latest opening: the barrel racing track and poker room set to open next month in the tiny town of Gretna.

Gretna is in one of the state's poorest counties, Gadsden, and the North Florida community has been grateful for the jobs. But, as the Tallahassee Democrat shows in its thorough story here, the real deal is slot machines. Promoters have partnered with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have offered the financing, and they see profits and the promise of more jobs if they can just get those one-armed bandits installed. All the county needs to do to get slots is a local referendum. County commissioners decide that on Tuesday.

From the Democrat story:

"If proponents get their way, the Creek Entertainment Gretna development could crescendo by 2017 into a resort casino featuring hotels, a world-class equestrian center, simulcast horse races, restaurants, quarter-horse racing and 2,000 slot machines operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama."

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Florida Horsemen

Questionable Florida Pari-Mutuel License Award for North Florida Gretna Facility Barrel Racing To Be Used to Leverage Gasdsen County Slot Casino Referendum Ballot Request this Tuesday, November 1

This Tuesday, November 1, 2011, the Gadsden County Commission will consider a request by Gretna Racing, LLC to authorize a countywide referendum on allowing slot machines at the Creek Entertainment Gretna facility in Gretna, a small North Florida town with a population of less than 2,000.

“With its recent and questionable license award from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Gretna has deviously positioned its minimal live racing dates over a two-month span to meet the State’s two-year bare minimum requirements to operate slot machines, while insisting it will hold ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ so as to not have the expense and, of course, the resultant economic development created by conducting legitimate horse racing,” explained Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Kent Stirling. “In 2009, Gretna Racing insisted that its only motive was to promote the horse industry. Now, the real mission has been revealed.”

Shortly after its approval of the Gretna license, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering was cited by the Florida Auditor General in an October 26, 2011 report for faulty slot machine and cardroom licensing procedures, resulting in lost revenue to the State.

If the Commission allows it, the referendum would be placed on the January 31, 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Ballot. Most of Gretna’s residents are registered Democrats and 85 percent are African-American, with a median income of $27,000 per year.
Should the referendum ultimately be approved by Republican voters, it will make Gadsden County the third in Florida to approve Las Vegas-style slot machines. Further, it will open the floodgates for all Florida counties to do the same under the same lax pari-mutuel regulatory oversight.

“The people of Gretna are being duped. The jobs that legitimate horse racing operations bring are well known to far and away exceed the economic vortex that this ill-begotten scheme would create.” Stirling explained. "The proposal was wisely thrown out by Jefferson County in 2008."

Gretna Racing, clearly confident in its ability to secure the vote, has already published “Gretna Casino” Web sites, which indicate it is expecting a clear path to open its casino later in 2012, while bypassing federal and state law, as well as bona fide pari-mutuel regulation. On its site, Gretna Casino indicates that it will seek to become a North Florida “gambling getaway.”

James Dorris, CEO of PCI Gaming Authority, a company owned by the Alabama Poarch Creek Indians, will make the request on behalf of his partners, which include Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar and former Gulfstream Park attorney, David Romanik, who briefly served as track CEO.

“The Mssrs. Romanik and Dunbar have been peddling the same set of construction blueprints for years,” Stirling recalls

Florida Horsemen

Only legitimate Horse Racing, Not Barrel Racing Will Bring The Most Jobs to Gadsden County and Gretna Gambling

After voting to allow Gadsden (Republican-only) voters to determine on January 31, 2011 whether to allow slot machines to be installed at the Gretna facility, the City of Gretna stands at a critical juncture. Will its poker casino facility will simply wind up as a small, faceless development along an I-10 exit where locals go to play cards and slot machines? Or could it be a showplace that truly creates county and city-wide employment? Bona fide, legal horse racing simply creates more jobs than all slots, casinos and barrel racing gimmicks combined. In fact, the entire 41 days of Gretna Racing’s “meet” could actually be conducted with only 24 horses, over which no regulatory controls have been placed to ensure the integrity and uniformity of the race process, thus leaving the question of whether the public betting interest is protected. Since barrel races require fewer horses, holding barrel racing as a minimum and perfunctory way to meet the State’s live racing requirement purposely curtails the need for additional horses and their respective entourages (and thus, jobs) that legitimate horse racing brings. Because the proposed barrel racing requires fewer horses and thereby less personnel, this effectively eliminates the seven jobs per horse (and the resultant economic infrastructure) with which real horse racing can legitimately benefit a community. For years, Florida lawmakers have purposefully tied the gaming industry to real horse racing to ensure that jobs would continue to be created. By preventing this shortcut to Florida’s live horse racing requirement, Gadsden County and the City of Gretna can be part of a winning equation that will grow the horse industry by creating thousands more jobs, and that the State’s $6.2 billion horse industry will continue to grow and prosper.

www.unitedfloridahorsemen.com

Florida Horsemen

That is: www.UnitedFloridaHorsemen.org
or www.FloridaHorsemen.com

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