07/10/2013 2:00PM

Florida horsemen register objection over Calder slots license


The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has sent letters to the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering contending that the division should not have issued a slot-machine license to Calder Race Course due to the lack of a purse agreement between horsemen and the track.

The complaint is yet another matter of dispute on the south Florida circuit, where the Miami-area’s two racetracks, Gulfstream and Calder, are running head-to-head for the first time and horsemen are up in arms over the efforts by some companies to obtain racing permits under dubious qualifications, such as racing Quarter Horses around barrels.

The FHBPA sent the letters detailing its objections Tuesday, prior to learning that the division had already renewed the license, which allows Calder to operate 2,000 slot machines at its property. Kent Stirling, president of the FHBPA, said Wednesday that the organization does not plan to file any legal challenges to the license renewal and that the letters were intended to notify the division about the FHBPA’s disapproval.

The dispute centers on different interpretations of language in Florida statutes that require racetrack permitholders to have an agreement with horsemen “governing the payment of purses on live horse races.” The FHBPA says the language requires the track to have an agreement on purse distribution from parimutuel revenues, in addition to an agreement over distribution of revenue from the slot machines.

Calder has been running since opening in April without a contract with horsemen over the distribution of purses from parimutuel revenues, but the track has a contract with the FHBPA, expiring in 2020, over distributions from slot machines, officials from both sides agree.

John Marshall, general manager of Calder, said Wednesday that the track was eligible to receive the slot-machine license renewal because of the contract governing revenues from the machines, and he said that the horsemen’s letters to the division were a “sneak attack.”

“It’s not a difference of opinion,” Marshall said. “It’s a matter of law. It’s a matter of fact. We have a contract with the horsemen.” Marshall said that the machines are expected to contribute $8 million to purses this year.

Stirling said the horsemen are hoping that the letters put pressure on Calder to work out a deal on the distribution of parimutuel revenues.

“We haven’t had a contract for months,” Stirling said. “All we want to do is get them to the table to work out a deal.”