After years of holding together a patchwork of gambling industry regulations, the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering announced on Friday that it is prepared to rewrite the rules regulating Florida's multi-billion dollar parimutuel industry.
"In their current form, the laws regulating the industry are unclear and do not define many standards necessary to ensure the continued integrity of pari-mutuel wagering,'' the division said in a press release announcing the first in a series of hearings for the rule-making process. "The draft rules are designed to clarify terms and maintain traditional pari-mutuel standards."
The initiative is a rare acknowledgement by a state agency that the laws governing horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons are out of date and unclear. In the last decade, the state has spent thousands of dollars defending the statutes despite changes in gaming technology, and only occassionally publicly asked the Legislature for more authority to update the regulations.
However, the agency’s effort faces uncertain legal precedence and, ultimately, may serve to force the Legislature’s hand. Because of the bitter feuds within the state’s parimutuel industry, nearly every signficant rule change approved by state regulators has been met with a legal challenge. In many cases, the court has overturned attempts by the division to clarify the law or offer new interpretation to existing law. Despite the setbacks, the Legislature has refrained from updating the law.
As the Herald/Times first reported, a series of rulings from the Division of Parimutuel Wagering in the last year have spawned dozens of lawsuits. Regulators have allowed "flag-drop" and barrel races to be considered a parimutuel sport, permitted slot operators to run electronic roulette and craps games in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, allowed a dormant jai alai permit to be used to expand the number of slot machines at Magic City Casino, and allowed Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream racetrack in Hallandale Beach to run a one-time race in June so they could offer thoroughbred races via simulcast year-round.
Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association which won a lawsuit against the agency when it designated barrel racing as a parimutuel sport, said Friday he was surprised at the division’s acknowledgement that the laws governing the industry are unclear “but it’s also very accurate,’’ he said.
If the agency fails in its efforts to clarify what it considers unclear law, it could tee up the task for legislators, who have also signaled they are poised to review the state’s gaming laws.
The Senate Gaming Committee announced plans on Friday to conduct a series of four town-hall style hearings around the state to discuss the future of gambling in Florida and find ways to clarify the law and eliminate loopholes. The first hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23 in Coconut Creek.
The first rule workshop will be held Oct. 16 in Fort Lauderdale. A draft of the rule indicates that the division is prepared to outlaw "flag drops" but allow for an alternative to the traditional quarter horse racing and impose new rules on jockeys. It indicates it will prohibit jai alai games played with only two players and will impose rules for standards of play.
The Legislature is also expected in October to receive a $400,000 report it commissioned from the Spectrum Gaming Group on the economic role of the gaming industry in Florida. Here's the release:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering today announced that it will begin the rule-making process with the introduction of new administrative rules related to Florida’s pari-mutuel wagering permitholders. In their current form, the laws regulating the industry are unclear and do not define many standards necessary to ensure the continued integrity of pari-mutuel wagering. The draft rules are designed to clarify terms and maintain traditional pari-mutuel standards.
Specifically, the draft rules seek to define and specify performance and jockey requirements; track, race and jai alai general rules; and qualifications of horses to start. The rules will be discussed in upcoming rule-development workshops held by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
A series of rule-development workshops for the draft pari-mutuel rules will be held throughout the state. The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering will issue a notice to the public prior to each meeting, as well as an agenda. The first rule-development workshop will be held in Fort Lauderdale on October 16, 2013.
Housed within DBPR, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is charged with the regulation of pari-mutuel, cardroom and slot gaming in Florida, as authorized by Chapter 550, 551 and 849, Florida Statutes.
The public and stakeholders can learn more about the draft rules, upcoming workshops and more by visiting the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering’s webpage at www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pmw. In addition to participating in the rule-development workshops, stakeholders can submit input by emailing email@example.com.
The rule-making process is provided in Section 120.54, Florida Statutes. Rule development is required for all new rules and rule amendments. Information regarding the rules and an explanation for the need of for rule development will be submitted to the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform (OFARR). Notice of a rule development workshop must be published in the Florida Administrative Register (FAR) no less than 14 days prior to the workshop. The Notice of Rule Development will contain information regarding the purpose and effect of the proposed rule, the subject area to be addressed, the specific authority for the proposed rule and the statutory sections being implemented by the proposed rule. At the same time the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published in the FAR, separate notice will be provided to the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC).
After the time for a rule hearing has expired, JAPC will be notified that DBPR is preparing to file the proposed rule for adoption. JAPC is responsible for analyzing and commenting on the proposed rule. Before a rule is adopted, JAPC will send a certification letter to the Department of State indicating that the proposed rule is appropriate for adoption.
OFARR is responsible for analyzing and commenting on the proposed rule in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Between 28 and 90 days after publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the proposed rule must be filed for adoption with the Department of State, Bureau of Administrative Code. Rules filed for adoption take effect 20 days after filing with the Department of State unless a different effective date is specified in the rule.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses and regulates more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from hotels and restaurants, real estate agents and certified public accountants to veterinarians, contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.