Florida Legislation Update

Former Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Testifies.

Press Release
June 28, 2012

Generic Racing Shot

Marking the fifth day of testimony in the final administrative hearing on the issue of whether “pari-mutuel barrel racing” has been allowed in Florida without enabling legislation, regulatory hearings or public input, former Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Director Milton Champion testified on June 27 that during his tenure in that role, he felt the licensing of barrel racing as a pari-mutuel event was “a joke” and “an embarrassment” to the State of Florida.

As reported by the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas on May 6, Champion was dismissed from his position as Florida's top pari-mutuel regulator after refusing to permit Gretna Racing LLC to run rodeo-style barrel racing as a pari-mutuel sport, instead of holding the legitimate Quarter Horse racing to which it had initially committed.

The hearing, which was extended from its initial three-day schedule in April, is scheduled to run through June 29, 2012.

The referenced Miami Herald excerpt is reprinted below (view the entire article):

"In an email to MacNamara in August, Marc Dunbar, a lawyer and part-owner of a horse track in Gadsden County, complained about the division’s staff and hoped MacNamara could get them into shape. MacNamara had worked together at Dunbar’s law firm and listed the firm as a source of income on his financial disclosure forms as recently as 2010.

In September, Dunbar and his partners asked the division for permission to run rodeo-style barrel racing as a parimutuel sport, instead of the quarter horse racing they had intended when they obtained the permit. Shortly afterwards, Champion said he was called into Department of Business and Professional Secretary Ken Lawson’s office. “He told me Marc Dunbar is close with the governor’s chief of staff and they want me to resign, so I resigned,’’ Champion said.

Champion now says that while “the law may not be clearly defined,’’ had he remained at the agency he “would have strongly suggested we not approve it.”

MacNamara said Champion was asked to resign because his wife worked at the Seminole Hard Rock as head of surveillance. While the state does not regulate the tribe, it does regulate their competitors. But Champion said he had disclosed his wife’s job when he was hired to head the division five years ago and again when he was reappointed to the post when Scott came to office.

With Champion gone, the division then approved the barrel racing switch, a move which Dunbar and his partners hope will allow the track to get slot machines."

To view the entire case history and docket for each day's hearings, go to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings Web site.

For further information, please contact the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association at (305) 625-4591.
Visit our blog at www.FloridaHorsemen.com.