Barrel-racing foes win another round

Dec 2, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on December 2, 2011:

Barrel-racing foes win another round

By The Associated Press

Opponents of gambling on quarter horse barrel racing in Florida won another preliminary legal victory Friday as the number of lawsuits and administrative complaints filed over the issue continues to grow.

Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers said during a conference call with the parties that she would let traditional flat track quarter horse racing interests amend their complaint in a way that could keep that case going even if they lose another in Circuit Court.

Besides those two cases, three others related to barrel racing are pending in an appellate court.

“It’s beginning to sound like the 12 days of Christmas,” said Ralf Michels, a lawyer for the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. “I just don’t know how many lawyers are filing. I don’t know what number to put on that in the song.”

Michels noted the division sometimes has sided with the barrel racing advocates and at other times with opponents.

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association contend that betting on barrel racing, a women’s rodeo sport that requires far fewer horses and riders than flat track racing, violates state racing rules. They argue it’s an attempt by pari-mutuel facilities to qualify on the cheap for more lucrative card rooms and possibly slot machines.

A recent appellate court ruling saying the Legislature can permit slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities such as dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons, across the state has been appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Quarter Horse Track Association supports barrel racing and contends it’s a legitimate form of gaming although never before done in Florida.

The administrative complaint alleges the state failed to adopt a rule on barrel racing before permitting it at a track in Gretna. Barrel racing was held for the first time on Thursday in the Gadsden County town.