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Barrel Racing Starts, Could Lead To Expansion Of Gaming

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A loophole first used in Hialeah to bring casino-style gambling to Hialeah Race Track has been used again in North Florida, meaning now, you can bet on Barrel Races in Gretna. The people who stage more traditional horse races are up in arms, but may not be able to put the genie back in the bottle.

Unable to get the state blessing need to run thoroughbred races at Hialeah, a key to gaining the rights to open a casino at the track, owner John Brunetti convinced the state to allow quarter horse racing instead. Now. it’s the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and Florida Quarter Horse Breeders & Owners Association who are challenging the state permit that allows pari-mutuel betting on the Barrel Racing events.

The two associations said quarter horse racing is intended for tracks, not for riding cloverleaf patterns around three barrels in an arena, which many call a “rodeo event”.

An appeals court on Thursday told the Gretna arena’s owners and state regulators to explain why it shouldn’t shut down the associations’ request to shut down the operation until the challenge can be reviewed. They have to respond by next Tuesday.

For now, Gretna Racing said it’s races are a legitimate pari-mutuel event that will provide entertainment and jobs in the community. Just 5o people attended the races, and the owners of the track didn’t talk a lot about the possibility of using this as an opening for adding casino games in the future,

“We’re racing,” said James Dorris, president of facility operators PCI Gaming Authority, as he sat among a little more than 50 people in the bleachers. “We’re very confident we’re moving ahead.”

Dorris admitted barrel racing will not be the big money maker at the facility, which could host a poker room and slots.

“The charges that we’re trying to bypass one thing to get another are pretty ridiculous,” Dorris said, adding that they are following state laws and regulations.

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