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Judge says state erred in barrel racing permit

 A judge's ruling released Monday has put the future of barrel racing in Florida in jeopardy, although those at Gretna say it requires only technical changes.

 An 85-page Final Order from Administrative Law Judge John G. Van Laningham states that the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering was incorrect in granting the license for racing at Gretna.

 The judge determined Florida barrel racing to be an unadopted rule, which puts the existing licenses in question. So what happens next will likely involve some more legal wrangling. His ruling challlenged the PMW's policy that led to the license being issued, according to plaintiff lawyer Mike Barry.

 From the judge's report: "Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is ORDERED that the policy of the Division pursuant to which "Gretna-style" barrel match racing is treated as the legal equivalent of traditional quarter horse racing, so that a quarter horse racing permitholder is able to obtain an annual license authorizing pari-mutuel wagering operations on barrel match racing, is an unadopted rule which violates section 120.54(1)(a), Florida Statutes."

 Those pointing to the convoluted state of Florida gambling have been using Gretna as the poster case. Gretna, 25 miles west of Tallahassee, has had track owners operating barrel-racing to fulfill the pari-mutuel requirement that is a prelude to slots. The track was the first in the world that offered wagering on an event most often performed at rodeos. A track in Hamilton County followed.

  This from Wesley Cox, chairman of the North Florida Horsemen’s Association (NFHA):

“While this ruling will result in us having to make some technical racing changes, overall this ruling will not impact racing at Gretna during the 2013-’14 racing season. 

 “We are pleased this ruling means that the North Florida Horsemen will be allowed to continue conducting races and reap the benefits of racing at Gretna.  NFHA will work with the facility to make the necessary technical changes to our racing per the judges’ order while the appeal is pending.”

 My take: the reference to "technical changes" could include a switch from barrel racing to quarterhorse racing. I emailed that speculation to Cox's representative and didn't hear back.

Part of the 17-paragraph statement from the United Florida Horsemen included this comment from Steve Fisch, FQHRA president:“... this trial has been about far more than serving justice for an outright hijack of Florida’s legislative and regulatory process by a few special interests.  

 “Our fight has been about protecting the Florida horse racing industry’s $2.2 billion annual contribution to Florida’s economy that brings solid business, tourism and jobs to our state, as well as national and international prestige in the finest international horse racing communities."

Those at PMW say they are reviewing the ruling.

To read the Order, go to

 This is a darned interesting topic, but for the everyday gambler, I'm not sure it has much impact. To read the Palm Beach Post version of Monday's news, go to

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