04/30/2006 11:00PM

Florida horsemen pursue talks

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The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will continue to negotiate with Magna Entertainment Corp. over a contract for a share of slot-machine revenue at Gulfstream Park while in a state-sanctioned arbitration process, the executive director of the horsemen's association said Monday.

Magna announced Friday that it intended to seek binding arbitration over how to divide the revenue from 1,500 slot machines planned for Gulfstream later this year.

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the horsemen's association, said that his group was surprised by Magna's decision to seek arbitration after several months of fruitless negotiations. Still, Stirling said, arbitration "doesn't preclude us in any way from negotiating with Magna, and that's what we intend to do, even though we're not exactly thrilled with the negotiations so far."

Stirling declined to reveal the percentages that the horsemen are seeking. The state will receive 50 percent of all slot-machine revenue, with the rest up for grabs.

State law requires that any racetrack have an agreement with its horsemen before operating slot machines. Under the law, sites with agreements will be able to begin accepting slot-machine bets on July 5, but Stirling said that the earliest the arbitration process could be completed would be in August, delaying the opening of a casino at Gulfstream by at least a month if the two sides are not able to reach a deal.