Bills Filed To Keep FL Racing Running

Published: January 13, 2022 10:13 am EST

Dan Daley says he's looking to fix a glitch in the recent gaming compact.

The final harness racing contest at Florida’s last venue for the sport will take place this April, but Rep. Dan Daley wants to make sure that anyone else who wants to take up the sport in Florida can.

The Democratic lawmaker from Coral Springs has filed legislation (HB 1269) to correct what he sees as a glitch in last year’s legislation that was part of a Gaming Compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Democrat Sen. Shevrin Jones has filed a companion bill (SB 1794).

The bills call for anyone who has permits to run other kinds of wagering — greyhound racing, thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing or jai alai games during the 2020-21 year — to also be able to get a permit to run two-wheeled sulkies around a racetrack. Currently, if someone wanted to race sulkies around a racetrack for people to bet on, there’s no mechanism to get that permit, Daley said.

“HB 1269, which I filed for the 2022 Session, provides an avenue for harness racing to return to Florida while allowing the families in this industry to operate their small businesses and continue to raise their families,” Daley said.

He estimated 10,000 jobs will disappear along with the sport when adding up the jockeys, horse caretakers and material suppliers.

“Agriculture is the second-largest industry in Florida and once again, it’s being taken for granted,” Daley said, commenting on the way the sport was simply eliminated.

The Isle Casino is closing its harness racing track at the end of this season because of a planned redevelopment of the land that its track now sits on. The casino is planning to build a hotel, a cinema, shops, restaurants and apartments on the land where an old grandstand sits.

Daley, pointing out the harness racing operation is still drawing profits and crowds at Isle Casino, said the state should at least provide a way for harness racing to exist, even if the Isle Casino has found a more profitable use for its land.

The 233-acre facility that once drew celebrities like Jackie Gleason, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford made Pompano Beach the “Winter Capital of Harness Racing” starting in 1964, according to Frank Cavaioli, a retired history and political science professor. Cavaioli wrote a book titled “Pompano Park Harness Track.”

(Anne Geggis / floridapolitics.com)

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