Florida's gambling regulators are fending off legal challenges on two fronts today, both because of their decision to issue two pari-mutuel permits -- one to a barrel-racing track in North Florida and another to a summer Jai Alai permit in Miami.
The state's Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering argued in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee Monday that it's decision to issue a barrel racing permit to a new horse track in Gretna should not be put on hold. The stay is being sought by the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association which is challenging the permit as illegal, claiming barrel racing is not a legitimate pari-mutuel activity.
Owners of the track, however, argue that the state never defined what constitutes horse racing, allowing for the liberal interpretation employed to allow for barrel racing.
Both cases have this in common: the holders of the new pari-mutuel permits see it as a way to leapfrog into more lucrative gambling offerings, such as poker rooms and slot machines. As these loopholes widened, Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, last week called for legislation to close the loopholes before lawmakers consider bringing resort casinos to South Florida.