Despite Scheduled Testimony on Legitimacy of 'Pari-Mutuel Barrel Racing' Today, Gretna Racing Co-Owner David Romanik Still Cementing Plans to Bring Similar Slot-Ready Facility to Florida City. Today's litigation temporarily halted to determine whether Romanik's testimony would compromise his law license.
Scheduled to testify in Florida administrative court today (August 22, 2012) about the questioned legitimacy of the State of Florida’s license award for his “pari-mutuel barrel racing,” Gretna Racing co-owner David Romanik has already cemented plans to bring a similar scheme to Florida City, a tiny South Florida town often called the “Gateway to the Florida Keys.”
Gretna Racing LLC co-owners Romanik and Gulfstream Park lobbyist Marc Dunbar have been actively litigating as “intervenors” on behalf of Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering—essentially functioning as attorneys to defend the same regulating entity that granted their North Florida-based pari-mutuel facility the license in question. Today’s litigation was temporarily halted to determine whether Romanik’s testimony would otherwise compromise his license with the Florida Bar.
Local media reports that the Florida City project would primarily feature jai-alai, but include a “Phase 2”portion described as a “Quarter Horse Track.” Local rumors were also reported that “Indians” have purchased adjacent land. Romanik’s existing Gretna Racing partnership is with the Alabama Poarch Creek Indian Tribe.
“We do not believe that such a facility would be conducting legitimate Quarter Horse racing,” said Kent Stirling, Executive Director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents over 6,000 Thoroughbred horsemen who race in Florida.
Operating under the corporate entity “Ft. Myers Real Estate Holding Company,” which successfully sued the State of Florida for a previous denial of a pari-mutuel permit in 2011, Romanik’s Florida City project would need to hold live racing to meet Florida’s requirements for the installation of slot machines in the facility, despite its ownership of a jai-alai pari-mutuel permit.
During the June 2012 litigation that preceded today’s hearing, former Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Milton Champion testified that he felt the licensing of barrel racing as a pari-mutuel event was “a joke” and “an embarrassment” to the State of Florida. Champion recounted how he was dismissed from his Director position after not approving “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”
“Because ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing’ is a get-rich-quick scheme specifically designed to sharply curtail the need for racehorses and their inherent job creation value, the Florida horse racing and breeding industry’s $2.2 billion statewide economic impact stands to diminish accordingly if schemes like this are given carte blanche to proceed,” explained Stirling. “Horses are documented job creators. A typical racetrack literally employs thousands of people, not the 150 being promised to the unsuspecting people of Florida City. Just ask the folks in Ocala how racing creates a demand for breeding, which creates even more jobs.”
To access the entire case history and docket, or view related litigation, go to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings Web site or click here. For further information, please contact Kent Stirling at the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association at (305) 625-4591.