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Gretna track opens barrel-sized loophole in gambling law

StandardbredAs Florida considers ushering in a new era of casino mega-resorts, a dispute in the tiny Panhandle town of Gretna has focused attention on the state’s existing gambling landscape — and the considerable confusion that surrounds it.

Florida’s current gambling laws, some say, are so haphazard, so disjointed, that no one can even agree on what the term “horse racing” means anymore.

If you’re thinking of the Kentucky Derby, think again. Gretna’s new Creek Entertainment barrel racing facility — which also will offer poker and hopes to add slots — has just opened Thursday, despite fervent opposition from the state’s horse trainers and breeders. Instead of racing around an oval track, these horses zig-zag around red barrels, rodeo-style.

The owners of Creek Entertainment — which include a savvy Gulfstream Park lobbyist who once tried to install slots at Miami International Airport — say the particulars of how the horses are running don’t matter. Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation has agreed, and signed off on barrel racing as fully compliant with Creek Entertainment’s quarter horse racing permits. Story here.

-- Mike Vasquez, Photo credit: