Calder to apply stabling fee during non-live racing months; FHBPA responds
In the past, stall space and training facilities at Calder Casino & Race Course have been provided to Thoroughbred owners and trainers for free over the course of the calendar year, including the months when Calder does not conduct live racing. However, as with other racetracks across the country, Calder is faced with a decision to either close its stable area or to apply a stabling fee for those horses training at Calder during its ‘off-season' (the months when there are no races at Calder).
To keep the stable area open and operating with training services when Calder is not running live races, Calder must charge a stabling fee of $10 per stall per day beginning December 1, 2012 and continuing through April 5, 2013. The $10 fee will assist with offsetting a portion of stable area operating costs when there is no live racing. The fees will not cover all of Calder's stable area expenses.
South Florida Thoroughbred owners have choices of where to stable their horses when Calder is not running live races. Other area stabling/training facilities and their fees include:
Palm Meadows $15 per day
Palm Beach Downs $10 per day
Payson Park rates vary
The horses that use Calder as a training facility when there is no live racing are able to compete at other racetracks, generating revenue for their owners and trainers and those racetracks. Meanwhile, Calder must continue to pay for the operating and maintenance costs associated with keeping its stable area open. Current economics no longer afford the luxury of free stabling and training facilities during the period when there is no opportunity for participants to generate revenues for Calder's racing program.
While the industry standard is for racetracks to close their stable areas at the conclusion of their race meets, Calder realizes that it is beneficial to South Florida racing to remain open for stabling and training during the months when there is no live racing.
Response from Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (“FHBPA”) Executive Director Kent Stirling to Calder Casino and Race Course's announcement today (September 28, 2012) that it would charge a stabling fee of $10 per stall, per day, beginning December 1, 2012 and continuing through April 5, 2013:
“With no prior discussion or warning, Calder officials made their announcement today during a weekly status meeting with FHBPA representatives.
“Contrary to the terms of its current contract with the FHBPA, Calder has unilaterally chosen to levy this unheard-of fee, which we believe is designed to pave the way toward eliminating live racing altogether.
Said FHBPA President Phil Combest: ‘Conveniently, this out-of-blue announcement came a week after the deadline for submission of stall applications to Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows. And, of course, stabling at private facilities such as Payson Park has been reserved for the winter by northern horsemen. Basically, Calder horsemen have nowhere to go.'
“Florida horse racing, which has a $2.2 billion economic impact on the statewide economy, is responsible for creating over 50,000 jobs a year, thousands of which are generated by live racing operations at Calder. The irony is that Calder, which netted just over $13 million in 2012 slot machine revenue, is acting to sabotage the very economy that supports its slots revenue.
Should Calder ultimately effect this charge, it will force thousands of jobs and small business job creators out of business, and out of Florida altogether.
“With the advent of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing' and ‘flag drop racing' last year, pari-mutuel permitholders and racinos have clearly been given free rein to disregard the economic driver of Florida's live horse racing requirements, and still retain their right to have slot machines and cardrooms. The people of Florida voted to allow slot machines at sanctioned pari-mutuel facilities simply because of racing's positive economic impact that offsets the predatory nature of slots. By forcing small racing employers out, we believe Calder could be trying to avail itself of Florida's current scofflaw regulatory climate in order to appease its casino-driven corporate ownership.”
The fact is, Florida has year-round live racing only because of horsemen's ability to stable at Calder Race Course. With horsemen gone as a result of Calder adding this substantial financial burden, we can only wonder where Gulfstream Park will secure horses to fill its highly successful race meet, which has historically derived 45 percent of its starters from Calder. So great is Gulfstream's need for Calder horses, that it pays the full cost of shipping between facilities.
Further, comparing on-track stabling with training center fees is absurd and misguided. Horsemen stable on-track simply for the convenience of the racetrack, thus obviating shipping expenses typically borne by tracks to create full fields more conducive to wagering. By suggesting that horsemen now should underwrite the very product they supply to keep tracks in business is simply a gross distortion of reality.