Serving Florida's Thoroughbred Horse Racing Owners, Trainers and Horsemen

FHBPA Lobbyist Message


FHBPA Lobbyist

One of Florida’s top firms to protect horsemen interests in Tallahassee

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has hired Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations to represent the FHBPA’s interests during this year’s legislative session and throughout the year.

The FHBPA Board unanimously approved the hire on September 29, 2016, following the announced end of 2016 retirement of its previous lobbyist Herb Sheheane. President Bill White encouraged the move, noting that, “the 2017 Legislative Session will be active for gaming issues and we expect the Gaming Compact as well as decoupling to be front and center in these discussions.”

The FHBPA’s decision is a timely one as the industry braces for another round of efforts to decouple pari-mutuel operations from casinos. Decoupling threatens purses, racing dates and jobs statewide that are connected to the thoroughbred industry.

Corcoran’s duties in Tallahassee would include working on behalf of the FHBPA to consistently identify and inform FHBPA of bills of interest being filed, legislative priorities and policy solutions that are available. They will also disclose any discussions taking place among the Legislature and Executive Office around these items.

Any new proposals will need both professional and grassroots attention. Corcoran & Johnston has been recognized as one of Florida’s Top Lobbyists and has more than 60 years of combined legislative, executive and regulatory experience. The FHBPA is confident in its choice of representation.

The Florida State Legislature is scheduled to start on March 7 and adjourns on May 5.

FHBPA, United Florida Horsemen Prevail in Fight to Stop Decoupling

Florida Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Standardbred HorsemenEven though decoupling as part of the Seminole Gaming Compact legislation was declared “dead” last Friday, March 4, a hostile decoupling amendment had been quietly filed the same day to HB 1187 and later to SB 1050 this week.

With pari-mutuel issues notoriously known to surface during the latest stages of the process, United Florida Horsemen stood strong against decoupling to ensure legislators knew our total opposition right up to today’s official conclusion of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session.

Working as to defeat the attempt to kill live horse racing and harness racing days, and thus competitive purses in Florida, United Florida Horsemen represented nearly 350,000 racehorse owners, trainers, breeders and their employees in Florida and nationwide in the fight, spearheaded by the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, Florida Quarter Horse Breeders and Owners Association, Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the American Quarter Horse Association and U.S. Trotting.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Bill White issued the following statement on the defeat of decoupling today at the Session’s conclusion:

“This week’s attempts at expanding gambling in Florida were not unexpected.  Obviously, Florida’s horsemen are relieved that the end-run full decoupling amendments floated during these past few days were unsuccessful, but more important than that, we are pleased to know that our state legislators have taken pause to recognize and better understand the far-reaching positive economic impact of the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred industries here in the ‘Horse Capital of the World.’

“With Florida’s laser focus on creating business and jobs, our horsemen–racehorse owners, trainers, breeders and their employees–have often felt disenfranchised as to why their economic contributions don’t seem to be on the political radar.  Indeed, during this Session, thousands of people who do business in Florida’s horse racing industry and the tens of thousands of people we employ seemed to be almost unwanted, if not oddly cast aside as disposable and non-human in the push by Big Casinos to put a one-armed bandit on every Florida corner.  

“Horsemen don’t think there will ever be an appropriate time or place to diminish the importance of anyone’s job or business, especially when it garners the type of big money, international interest and financial success that Florida’s horse racing industry does.

“Make no mistake, however.  There will be no reprieve.  Like a giant money-sucking vacuum to Florida’s economy, the Big Casino expansion forces behind decoupling are plotting their return, of that horsemen are 100 percent certain.

“Meanwhile, slot revenue will continue to be put to work in Florida the way voters intended–hand in hand with live racing days to provide economic incentives that keep us competitive with more aggressive horse racing and breeding programs in other states–states that actively continue to try and lure away our best owners, trainers, jockeys, drivers, horses and–most importantly–our many hardworking people who contribute to Florida’s economy far beyond what any stand-alone slot machine could ever do.”


Decoupling Job Loss Would Dwarf Seminole Compact Layoff Threats, United Florida Horsemen Warn

Florida Horse Racing, Florida Harness Racing

Florida’s Horsemen are Urging Legislators Not to Roll the Dice With Our Businesses

Noting this week’s story on the stalled Seminole Compact decoupling bills by‘s Jim Rosica, United Florida Horsemen said:

“We’re glad Governor Scott has brought up the issue of job loss in Florida, because it’s critical to understand that the passage of HB 7109/SB 7072–the “Seminole Compact” bills, or ANY legislation containing pari-mutuel decoupling will cause a very immediate and dramatic statewide loss of horse racing jobs in Florida’s Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred industries.”

In Marion County alone, the horse industry employs nearly 20,000, according to the Ocala/Marion County Chamber Economic Partnership.

“Decoupling would expand gambling by creating stand-alone casinos, letting those casinos keep all the profits instead of circulating them back through Florida’s economy through horse racing and agricultural breeding jobs.  It’s no wonder casino-owned pari-mutuels are fighting so hard to get it!” Horsemen said.

Last month, thousands of people employed by Florida horse racing and breeding signed their name to “No Decoupling” petitions delivered to the Florida Legislature, pleading with Governor Scott and Florida lawmakers to save their families and futures by not enacting decoupling.

  • “This is my livelihood, Governor Scott and this is the only work I’ve ever done.  Please don’t take my job that I love from me,” wrote Jennifer Lewis, a horsewoman originally from New Mexico. 
  • “I think the governing bodies need to do their due diligence and realize what a mistake this would be,” said Joanne McNamara from Louisville, Kentucky. 
  • “Decoupling will take away my livelihood as a trainer in Florida and the jobs of 10 people that I employ,” explained Tammy Levy, a trainer in Ft. Lauderdale.

“Let’s be clear:  Horse racing is about people.  It is about jobs and big business that grows our economy,” United Florida Horsemen explained.  “We maintain hope that’s what the Governor cares about more than casino-driven politics.”

National data shows that Florida has earned its reputation as the “Horse Capital of the World,” second only to Kentucky.

“Driven by Big Casinos, decoupling was presented to legislators as an option.  We want to believe that legislators will choose the right path once confronted with the ugly, job-killing realities of decoupling in the Seminole Compact bills.  Remember, Florida horsemen are also constituents, homeowners, voters, taxpayers, parents and neighbors.  We are those very same Florida families our legislators have committed to protect.”

By causing live racing days to be eliminated and the economic incentives that have propelled Florida horse racing and breeding to top industry positions in the nation, decoupling would effectively stifle horse racing in Florida, and with it the many small businesses who keep the industry running–from horse breeders, to trainers, to feed manufacturers and dealers, to blacksmiths and even obscure sole proprietors like jockey agents and blacksmiths.

“The purpose of gambling in any form is to create revenue and economic impact for the state.  Not to create the optimal environment for casino profit,” horsemen cautioned.

“The labor-intensive nature horse racing makes it the most desirable and economically impactful form of gambling because it is driven by the long-term business investment of breeding.  Unlike slot machines, horse racing returns money into the economy because of all the people required to breed and maintain a racehorse, leading to general revenue, green space and statewide economic development.  By letting pari-mutuels stop live racing, decoupling signals to wealthy horse racing investors that Florida is ‘closed for business.'”

The horse industry represents a $2.62 BILLION annual economic impact on the Ocala/Marion County economy alone.

Some headlines from this week’s legislative action:

Decoupling Still Threatens:  Though the deck is still stacked against us, Florida horsemen dodged a bullet in the Senate Tuesday — and probably in the Legislature during the 2016 session — when lawmakers postponed further discussion of sweeping changes in Florida gambling law.  Read the update HERE.

Not Dead Yet:  The Florida House all but declares defeat on Seminole Compact, gambling legislation.  Their lips were saying “not dead yet” but House leadership otherwise made clear that the Seminole Compact and gambling legislation were goners for this Session.  Read the story HERE.

Also . . . 

Florida Would Expand Gambling Predicated on an Illegal Activity?
Decoupling Is Crazy:  Why Subtract from Florida’s Economic Gains?
Legislators, Don’t Vote to Kill Horse Racing — Demand Facts


National Horsemen Warn Florida Policymakers “Decoupling” Would Cause Substantial Economic Loss

National Horsemen Warn Florida Policymakers "Decoupling" Would Cause Substantial Economic Loss

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback Let Florida lawmakers know that “decoupling” is good for casinos, but bad for the state economy

To keep Florida a strong, competitive economic force in the global horse racing industry, Sunshine State elected officials should “ . . . take all necessary actions to stop any legislative efforts to bifurcate gaming activities and live horse racing,” the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) wrote to Florida Governor Rick Scott and legislative leaders recently.

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback addressed Florida’s top elected officials on behalf of nearly 30,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers throughout the United States and Canada. The organization, which is dedicated to the growth, stability and well-being of the Thoroughbred racing industry and horse racing industry overall, has 29 other affiliate chapters including Florida, making it the largest horsemen’s organization of its kind.

Decoupling legislation would have a devastating effect on Florida’s horse racing and breeding industry, likely causing the rapid replacement of live horse racing with stand-alone casinos, Hamelback explained. This would result in the loss of substantial economic benefits that Florida enjoys from horse racing-driven tourism and small business creation, he added.

“Certainly, casinos would welcome the ability to conduct business without the additional expenses of live horse racing that supports this economic impact,” Hamelback said. “Decoupling would be great for casinos, but bad for Florida.”

Headquartered in Kentucky, the National HBPA has been representing the interests of Thoroughbred owners and trainers since 1940.

To view Hamelback’s letter to Governor Scott and Florida legislators, click here and here.

For tips on writing your own letter to your Florida Senator and State Representative, go to

In Case You Missed It

Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association Joins
Florida Well-Represented at Prestigious 2015 Breeders’ Cup, Thanks to Continued Live Racing Days, Competitive Purse Incentives
Decoupling Could Kill Florida’s Horse Industry, Ocala Star-Banner Editorial Board Writes
Meet the World-Famous Florida Horsemen Who Oppose Decoupling: The McKathan Brothers Taught Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah How to Be a Racehorse
SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Voices Opposition to Florida Horse Racing Decoupling
Read What National Horse Racing Media Has To Say About Florida’s Misguided “Decoupling” Proposal
Florida Could “Decouple” Horse Racing, Breeding Right Out of Business
Florida Horsemen Launch

Florida horsemen are gravely concerned that “decoupling” will trigger a statewide gambling avalanche, extract money out of Florida’s economy and siphon it back to Big Casinos, disabling our heretofore successful horse racing industry from competing for business with other, more horse racing-friendly states. “Decoupling” tells potential investors that “Florida is closed for business.” is an advocacy outreach by United Florida Horsemen, which comprises nearly 350,000 horsemen from the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Florida Standardbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, American Quarter Horse Association and U.S.Trotting.

Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association Joins

Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association Joins

“It’s time Florida recognize our horsemen as voters, taxpayers, citizens and businesspeople worth keeping,” Florida’s Harness Horsemen say.

With marketing resources, fan-friendly facilities and competitive opportunities for harness horsemen seemingly disappearing by the day in Florida, the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association (FSBOA) joined the campaign this week to further solidify horsemen’s unified voice in state-level legislative issues. comprises the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners Association and their respective national “parents,” the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the American Quarter Horse Association and now, U.S. Trotting.  Altogether, represents over 350,000 horsemen nationwide and over 10,000 in Florida alone.

Voraciously passionate about their sport, Florida’s harness horsemen are frustrated and tired of being pigeonholed, where the ability for established patrons and potential fans to watch and enjoy harness racing has literally been cordoned off to such a tight and unpleasant space that horsemen are losing hope of creating or even maintaining their audience in Florida.

“If decoupling passes, harness racing in Florida would likely be headed toward extinction,” FSBOA President and Executive Director Joe Pennacchio predicts. “Book it.”

What people say about harness racing and what the harness horsemen see are two different things. The presumption that decoupling is a “done deal.” The insistence that harness racing is dying while, in reality, virtually every aspect of horsemen’s once-thriving business seems to have been maneuvered into hopelessness.

“Across South Florida, shiny new casinos beckon slot machine players with air conditioning, service and new amenities, while harness racing fans must sweat it out with no shelter and bare-bones amenities,” Pennacchio explains. “Some casino facility owners seem to be already preparing for decoupling by making customers’ pari-mutuel experience as miserable as possible. It’s not exactly an equation that helps to grow, much less restore a market.”

“Our established businesses and employees should be more important to Florida than out-of-state companies lured with taxpayer funds that–more often than not–don’t fulfill their job creation promises,” Pennacchio adds. “It’s time Florida recognize our horsemen as voters, taxpayers, citizens and businesspeople worth keeping.”

Known as “Standardbreds,” harness racing horses descend from Colonial times before automobiles when the spirit of competition would strike two horse and buggy drivers in transit. Much like drag racers give the classic “thumbs up,” the drivers of yesteryear would enjoy an impromptu matchup. Soon, the buggy races became organized and the sport of Standardbred or “harness” racing began.

Although their style is all different, it’s horsemen’s love of the sport and their animals that bonds Florida’s Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse and Standardbred owners, trainers and breeders. On the business side, their futures are inextricably linked in the complex wagering world of Interstate and Inter-Track Simulcasting.

The campaign seeks to educate Florida Legislators about how horse racing of all kinds provides greater and more extensive economic impact than stand-alone casinos, particularly because of the cost and labor involved in training and maintaining a racehorse. Decoupling would immediately decrease purses, making Florida the loser against other, more horse racing-friendly states that recognize the sport’s superior economic benefits.