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Dear Chuck, stop the gaming 'shenanigans.' Sincerely, Marcelo

A letter from Miami Republican Rep. Marcelo Llorente:

Department of Business and Professional Regulation

Dear Secretary Drago:

As you are aware, the Florida Legislature passed SB 788, which set forth a framework of parameters for gaming on tribal lands as well as amended various provisions of the pari-mutuel statutes.   The legislation provided a number of benefits to the pari-mutuel industry, including lower tax rates and license fees in addition to other amendments to pari-mutuel laws.  Of particular note, the bill closed the quarter horse "loophole" and subjected applicants for quarter horse permits to the same requirements and limitations that are imposed upon other pari-mutuel permit applicants.  This was done to shut the door on the potential for unfettered growth of quarter horse racing and the accompanying card rooms and related pari-mutuel activities.

Due to the long history of contention amongst those in the pari-mutuel industry and in an attempt to minimize the shenanigans that have too-often encumbered such legislation, the effective date for the amendments to the pari-mutuel statutes were tied to the effective date of a gaming compact.  The disadvantage to such approach was that for certain provisions like the closing of the quarter horse loophole, the bill acted as a last call for anyone interested in taking advantage of the loophole.  To further complicate matters, the Legislature also took steps to allow the racing facility in Hialeah, a historic racing venue which has a quarter horse permit, the opportunity to revive itself by allowing that facility the opportunity to offer slots once it has conducted racing for two years.  The intent of this provision was not to create a new cottage industry of quarter horse racing slot machine operators in South Florida.

Now, Miami International Airport seeks to squeeze in as the Legislature is closing the door on the quarter horse loophole. Its efforts are presently aimed at obtaining a quarter horse permit to allow it to either lease quarter horse races or run the races in its parking lots with the ultimate goal to offer slot machines at its airport terminals.  I do not think any of my colleagues envisioned this type of activity being a possibility or even encouraged under SB 788.  Moreover, it clearly runs contrary to the intent of SB 788 which was to close the quarter horse loophole. 

It is my understanding the Division, after receiving a completed application, may have as few as 120 days in which to act on a quarter horse permit application, or the application will be deemed approved.  I would respectfully request any decisions on such applications be delayed to the extent possible under the law.  Such delay would give the Legislature the opportunity to act and give clarity to its intent to close the quarter horse loophole. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I am available if you have any questions or wish to discuss these issues further.