06/14/2013 3:25PM

Gretna Racing granted amended permit by Florida

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The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has awarded amended racing permits to an equine facility and card room in the state’s panhandle allowing it to conduct Quarter Horse races that start at the drop of a flag, according to state records.

The division awarded the new permits following a ruling by a state administrative law judge in early May that said the facility’s previous permit was granted in violation of state law. Under that permit, the facility, Gretna Racing, conducted parimutuel Quarter Horse barrel racing, an event that is not sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association.

Florida’s Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse associations had challenged the award of the initial permit, and officials for both associations are now saying that the new permits also do not conform to the law because it ignores the requirements set forth in the court ruling on May 6. The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the state arm of the AQHA, said that it will not sanction any race that does not use a starting gate.

It was unclear on Friday if the horsemen’s groups would file fresh legal challenges to the new permits. Attorneys representing the groups did not respond to a request for comment by late Friday afternoon.

When asked to provide the criteria for awarding the permit, a spokesperson for the division, Samantha Stratton, forwarded sections of Florida’s administrative code detailing, in part, the ability of licenseholders to apply to conduct “performances” on days in which previous “performances” were “vacated, abandoned, or will not be used for any reason.”

Under Florida statutes, racetrack licensees are allowed to operate card rooms. Many of the state’s licensees, including Gretna, are lobbying to expand the statute to allow for the operation of slot machines as well.