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Horse Industry Officials: Gretna Slots Could Mean Lost Jobs

Janice Fee

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking for a full appeals court hearing, after a panel ruling that would let Creek Entertainment in Gretna begin operating slot machines. Bondi’s office calls the move a “jaw dropping” expansion of gambling. And Florida Horsemen are raising their own concerns about the ruling.

The city says slot machines will help provide jobs and help its residents dig their way out of poverty. But Bruce Green, general counsel for the Florida Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association says if the argument is really economic, Gretna officials should focus on growing the horse racing industry. He says in some parts of the state it’s a major provider of jobs.

“Thoroughbred horse racing in South Florida and in Tampa, which supports the farm economy in Ocala is a huge, huge contributor to the economy in the state of Florida." Green says. "And when that gets attacked, and pari-mutuel facilities no longer have the incentive to conduct thoroughbred racing, what happens to the farms in Ocala, what happens to all those people’s jobs?”

Green says the horsemen are concerned about the court ruling because Gretna is counting it’ barrel racing events as part of the two years of  live racing required for a slot machine license. The horsemen are concerned that could create a precedent that would let other facilities operate similar horse events and use those to get slot or card room licenses, without having to hold full scale races, which create more jobs within the horse industry.