03/06/2017 4:40PM

Florida gambling bill spurs debate on ADW regulations

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Language in a Florida gambling bill that would potentially outlaw account wagering in the state is generating discussion among the state’s racing constituencies on how to regulate the practice, according to officials involved in the talks.

The language contained in an omnibus gambling bill that recently passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee would make it a felony to accept a wager on a horse race outside the grounds of a licensed racing facility. Racing officials said they do not expect the language to survive as the bill is moved along in the legislative process and reconciled with a House bill that does not include the language.

“Neither bill is going to pass in their present forms,” said Lonny Powell, the chief executive of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. “They are going to be changed. And there is one good thing about the language being put in there, and that’s that it has now facilitated” the conversation on how to structure ADW regulation in the state.

“Most of us believe that having something done in that area would be a good thing,” Powell said.

ADW is legal in Florida and is considered essential to the Thoroughbred industry in most states.

Powell said the FTBOA would like to see language similar to that in California and Kentucky, which require ADW companies to be licensed by the state racing commission. Those states also require ADW companies to make contributions to Thoroughbred constituents in the state based on percentages of their handle.

The state’s two Miami-area tracks, Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West, are operated by The Stronach Group, which owns the ADW company XpressBet. While The Stronach Group operates Gulfstream Park West under a lease, the track is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which operates twinspires.com, a market leader in ADW.

The Stronach Group’s Florida lobbyist, Marc Dunbar, gave testimony in front of the Appropriations Committee on Feb. 23 that supported the adoption of ADW regulations.

Last year, a similar omnibus gambling bill failed to get out of the legislature. The current bill addresses a number of gambling issues, including lottery sales, a compact with the state’s Seminole Tribe on its casino operations, and daily fantasy sports games.

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