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United Florida Horsemen “relieved” Session ends without decoupling

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The United Florida Horsemen said they were “relieved” the 2016 Legislative Session ended without lawmakers approving decoupling for Florida pari-mutuels.

“Even though decoupling as part of the Seminole Gaming Compact legislation was declared ‘dead’ last Friday, March 4, a hostile decoupling amendment had been quietly filed the same day to HB 1187 and later to SB 1050 this week,” the group said in a Friday email.

Decoupling removes race requirements for state pari-mutuels to run card rooms and slot machines, which the United Florida Horsemen contend would destroy their industry by lowering purse sizes for races.

The group, which represents nearly 350,000 racehorse owners, said its members felt “disenfranchised as to why their economic contributions don’t seem to be on the political radar.”

“Indeed, during this Session, thousands of people who do business in Florida’s horse racing industry and the tens of thousands of people we employ seemed to be almost unwanted, if not oddly cast aside as disposable and non-human in the push by Big Casinos to put a one-armed bandit on every Florida corner,” the email said.

Even though the group came out on top in a photo finish, the group said “There will be no reprieve.  Like a giant money-sucking vacuum to Florida’s economy, the Big Casino expansion forces behind decoupling are plotting their return, of that horsemen are 100 percent certain.”

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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