Bizarre Florida Barrel Racing Scheme Rolls Along

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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.”

Exactly.

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.

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  • Ownie

    Who the hell would bet on it?

    • Larryburndorf

      They don’t care who would bet on it, the point is its far cheaper to operate a barrel racing venue over a racetrack.

      • Scott

        Another nail in the coffin for a “sport” that is already that weird combination of pathetic and laughable.

        Like the milkshake maven winning the Kentucky Derby.

    • Azqhjockey1

       you might as well bet on who has a bigger ? .how stupid

    • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

      there is a @ss for every seat…BOOK IT!!!…

  • Ownie

    Who the hell would bet on it?

  • Jasonfeldman

    Ray,

    Is it a slow news day or something ? For some reason you continue to periodically bash these guys. My question is why ? Why continually criticize creative, intelligent people because they are trying something different ? Of course they are in it to make money, since when did that become verboten?

    • Kimberly

       True RAP musik is different too and the big corp machine is making money out of it…but I bet you do not listen to that noise.

  • Jasonfeldman

    Ray,

    Is it a slow news day or something ? For some reason you continue to periodically bash these guys. My question is why ? Why continually criticize creative, intelligent people because they are trying something different ? Of course they are in it to make money, since when did that become verboten?

  • Larryburndorf

    They don’t care who would bet on it, the point is its far cheaper to operate a barrel racing venue over a racetrack.

  • David

    Poorly written statues, greed, a small-thinking/incestuous industry, big-dollar influence on a for-hire system and working stiffs getting bones thrown they couldn’t have imagined in their working lifetimes equals what it is.  Would think proponents of a limited mega resort gaming model would be pleased as more chaos will likely result in more focus (on that plan) later on.  Call it fast money, corruption or savvy maneuvering but definitely embarrassing.

  • David

    Poorly written statues, greed, a small-thinking/incestuous industry, big-dollar influence on a for-hire system and working stiffs getting bones thrown they couldn’t have imagined in their working lifetimes equals what it is.  Would think proponents of a limited mega resort gaming model would be pleased as more chaos will likely result in more focus (on that plan) later on.  Call it fast money, corruption or savvy maneuvering but definitely embarrassing.

  • Watcher

    Let the pinhookers have some fun on their days off.  Maybe they can retrain some of the cripples left over from their sales prep to circle barrels.  They already know they can run FAST for 220 yards.

  • Watcher

    Let the pinhookers have some fun on their days off.  Maybe they can retrain some of the cripples left over from their sales prep to circle barrels.  They already know they can run FAST for 220 yards.

  • Azqhjockey1

     you might as well bet on who has a bigger ? .how stupid

  • Ron Taylor

    It’s nice to know we can still count on “business as usual” in Florida and N.J….As a bonus if Scott ever puts someone in charge of the racing industry it will be the first time and the people of Florida will have to name a racetrack after him……..

  • Ron Taylor

    It’s nice to know we can still count on “business as usual” in Florida and N.J….As a bonus if Scott ever puts someone in charge of the racing industry it will be the first time and the people of Florida will have to name a racetrack after him……..

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    there is a @ss for every seat…BOOK IT!!!…

  • Scott

    Another nail in the coffin for a “sport” that is already that weird combination of pathetic and laughable.

    Like the milkshake maven winning the Kentucky Derby.

  • BD

    Your shabby reporting of this story isn’t up to your standards. I won’t get into the pros and cons of barrel racing, but you quoting Milton champion’s response to the Miam Herald was seriously funny. If you checked the facts, you’d find that the man who had no pari-mutuel experience whatsoever when he was given the job as Director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, actually DID approve the Gretna application. He was such a neophyte at the job he still doesn’t even realize he signed the application.

    • Bernieinocala

      You are clueless! Champion represented the state on the installation of slots which the last time I looked are all at pari-mutuels. Name all the previous directors with pari-mutuel experience? And lastly, Joe Dillmore signed the Gretna barrel racing application

  • BD

    Your shabby reporting of this story isn’t up to your standards. I won’t get into the pros and cons of barrel racing, but you quoting Milton champion’s response to the Miam Herald was seriously funny. If you checked the facts, you’d find that the man who had no pari-mutuel experience whatsoever when he was given the job as Director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, actually DID approve the Gretna application. He was such a neophyte at the job he still doesn’t even realize he signed the application.

  • Kimberly

     True RAP musik is different too and the big corp machine is making money out of it…but I bet you do not listen to that noise.

  • Bernieinocala

    You are clueless! Champion represented the state on the installation of slots which the last time I looked are all at pari-mutuels. Name all the previous directors with pari-mutuel experience? And lastly, Joe Dillmore signed the Gretna barrel racing application

  • BD

    The Tampa Bay Times has a Pulitzer Prize-winning column called “Poli-Fact,” in which it determines whether statements made by various people in the news are true or not. They get rated true, mostly true, partly true, barely true or Pants on Fire, as the case may be.
    In response to the person who called me clueless a couple of days ago regarding Milton Champion, here are the facts.
    First, it appears as though the original answer has been changed, because I distinctly remember something about Champion being there for 5 1/2 years and that is mysteriously missing now. He was there for 1 1/2 years.
    Second, because poor decisions in Tallahassee allowed the big boys to keep putting in unqualified directors for the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering doesn’t make it right. From the standpoint of the Florida racing industry, it’s a disgrace.
    Third, if you read Milton Champion’s April deposition pertaining to this case you’ll learn that he signed on for barrel racing on June 25 of 2010. He also admitted he didn’t remember it, because staffers dumped papers on his desk to sign constantly and he never read them. He assumed his staffers had vetted everything out. A great way to run the Division – and people wonder why the industry is in the state it is now.
    You get a Pants on Fire for your knowledge of Milton Champion.     

    • Bernieinocala

      Dear Clueless,
      what are you talking about, nowhere does the article say Champion was Director for 5 and a half years? Who said anything about qualified Directors? Thirdly, barrel racing was never signed off on by ANYONE in 2010. It was never mentioned on any kind of application until late in 2011 when Dillmore signed off on it. Thank God you don’t make your living by writing, because you put my pants on fire without one single fact!

    • BuckyinKentucky

      I’m with you Bernieinocala, BD sure seems like a hack to put it mildly, if people like  him wrote for a living he would probably write articles full of nonsense and misinformation while holding back the word of wise men like us.

      Thank goodness he is just another PR contributor as if he wrote for a living that would be shocking or maybe he does and is just lousy at it??

      Viva la Paulick Report!

      Where do people like BD find the time to write such nonsense anyways?

      Mind-boggling to say the least and a great job in calling him out.

  • BD

    The Tampa Bay Times has a Pulitzer Prize-winning column called “Poli-Fact,” in which it determines whether statements made by various people in the news are true or not. They get rated true, mostly true, partly true, barely true or Pants on Fire, as the case may be.
    In response to the person who called me clueless a couple of days ago regarding Milton Champion, here are the facts.
    First, it appears as though the original answer has been changed, because I distinctly remember something about Champion being there for 5 1/2 years and that is mysteriously missing now. He was there for 1 1/2 years.
    Second, because poor decisions in Tallahassee allowed the big boys to keep putting in unqualified directors for the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering doesn’t make it right. From the standpoint of the Florida racing industry, it’s a disgrace.
    Third, if you read Milton Champion’s April deposition pertaining to this case you’ll learn that he signed on for barrel racing on June 25 of 2010. He also admitted he didn’t remember it, because staffers dumped papers on his desk to sign constantly and he never read them. He assumed his staffers had vetted everything out. A great way to run the Division – and people wonder why the industry is in the state it is now.
    You get a Pants on Fire for your knowledge of Milton Champion.     

  • Bernieinocala

    Dear Clueless,
    what are you talking about, nowhere does the article say Champion was Director for 5 and a half years? Who said anything about qualified Directors? Thirdly, barrel racing was never signed off on by ANYONE in 2010. It was never mentioned on any kind of application until late in 2011 when Dillmore signed off on it. Thank God you don’t make your living by writing, because you put my pants on fire without one single fact!

  • BuckyinKentucky

    I’m with you Bernieinocala, BD sure seems like a hack to put it mildly, if people like  him wrote for a living he would probably write articles full of nonsense and misinformation while holding back the word of wise men like us.

    Thank goodness he is just another PR contributor as if he wrote for a living that would be shocking or maybe he does and is just lousy at it??

    Viva la Paulick Report!

    Where do people like BD find the time to write such nonsense anyways?

    Mind-boggling to say the least and a great job in calling him out.

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