Ray Paulick: Gretna Racing’s Bizarre Florida Barrel Racing Scheme Like Woody Allen’s Movie “Bananas”–“A travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham”

section ray

Ray’s Paddock

Bizarre Florida Barrel Racing Scheme Rolls Along

by Ray Paulick | 05.09.2012 | 7:53am

If Fielding Mellish, the hapless revolutionary from the 1971 Woody Allen movie “Bananas,” were representing Florida horsemen in trying to stop the barrel-racing-for-slots scheme from proceeding any further, he’d have the perfect description of what has taken place so far: “It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”


Beyond that, it’s a classic example of log-rolling politics in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, where it’s not what you know but who you know. And in the case of the Gretna Racing LLC application to have pari-mutuel barrel racing in Gadsden County – a move that could spread to other parts of the state and permit these licensed “racetracks” to offer slot machines – one of its investors, lawyer-lobbyist Marc Dunbar, knows some very powerful people.

Dunbar’s law firm is listed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, as a source of income as recently as 2010. Shortly after MacNamara joined Scott’s administration last July, he reportedly received an email from his old boss Dunbar complaining about the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

In September, Dunbar’s Gretna Racing application was filed with the DPMW, attempting to exploit a loophole in Florida’s gaming law that could permit a racetrack to be licensed without offering what most people traditionally think of as a horse race. Enter a handful of horses and riders, a couple of barrels, some pari-mutuel machines, and a local referendum to permit slot machines.

It’s Dunbar and partner David Romanik’s 21st century definition of pari-mutuel horse racing.

That same month, the powerful MacNamara wielded his clout at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the DPMW. Its director, Ken Lawson, called DPMW chief Milt Champion into a meeting and told him to step down from the job he’d held for the past five years.

“He told me Marc Dunbar is close with the governor’s chief of staff and they want me to resign, so I resigned,” the Miami Herald quoted Champion as saying.

Leon M. Biegalski was named director of the division, and the Gretna application was approved.

Champion told the Miami Herald as head of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering he “would have strongly suggested we not approve it.”

Is this whole sequence of events an abuse of power? That’s not for me to say, but it certainly looks like a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.

It’s not over. Florida horsemen have gone to court to try and stop this bizarre scheme. Their case, in front of an administrative law judge, began in April and has been postponed until June. In the interim, the Miami Herald has uncovered the relationship between Gov. Scott’s chief of staff and one of Gretna Racing’s partners, and his possible influence in replacing the director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel.

Let’s hope the judge isn’t as friendly with Steve MacNamara as Marc Dunbar is.


To read the complete Miami Herald story by Mary Ellen Klas, click here or go directly to the Miami Herald story Web page here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/05/2785490/scotts-powerful-chief-of-staff.html#storylink=misearch

Click here to sign up for the Paulick Report’s daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry


About Ray Paulick:   For 15 years, Ray Paulick was a leading industry voice as the editor in chief of the Kentucky-based magazine, The Blood-Horse, and his weekly “What’s Going on Here” commentary was a “must read” for people throughout the Thoroughbred racing and breeding world.  This highly respected journalist is now the Publisher of the Paulick Report www.paulickreport.com, which is known nationally and internationally as the Thoroughbred industry’s independent voice for news, analysis and commentary.

About these ads

About Florida Horse Racing

Behind the scenes of Florida Thoroughbred racing and Florida Quarter Horse Racing is a vibrant, often unseen world known as the “backstretch.” It’s created by hundreds of independent businesses—both large and small. Through the labor-intensive, long-term and high-dollar financial investment required to get a young Thoroughbred or American Quarter Horse ready for competition, horse owners and trainers create thousands of jobs that drive over $1 billion a year through Florida’s economy—from breeding and buying, to training and campaigning. The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association represent the interests of nearly 10,000 Thoroughbred and American Quarter Horse owners and trainers who do business in Florida. Some FHBPA members are based in Florida, others have vast operations throughout the globe. But during a race meet, Florida is home to all of us. The FHBPA and FQHRA work to foster and promote their relationships with tracks, community and government, while creating a better economic climate in which our horsemen can do business.
This entry was posted in Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Florida Gambling, Florida Quarter Horse Racing, Florida Slot Machines, Florida Thoroughbred Racing, Gretna Casino Based on Illegal Barrel Racing, Gulfstream Park, Slot Machines and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s