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New gaming compact threatens future of harness racing in Florida

Harness racing at Pompano Beach track could be coming to an end
Harness racing at Pompano Beach track could be coming to an end

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – A longtime horse racing tradition in Pompano Beach could be coming to an end as a result of Florida’s new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Nick Coblentz and his family have spent generations building their harness racing business from the ground up

Weeks ago, he found out his laps around the track with his son may be numbered.

“It’s not just work, it’s a livelihood,” said Coblentz. “We have the choices of try and find other employment doing something else or we have to pick up and sell everything we have and move out of state.”

They are one of thousands of Florida families now scrambling to come up with a plan for if and when this bill gets signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“My son keeps asking if we have to get rid of the horses he keeps asking if we can stay in Florida,” Coblentz said. “We just really don’t know.”

Unlike thoroughbred racing, which is what you see in the Kentucky Derby, the standardbred horses that race in Pompano Beach are born and raised in Florida.

Previously the Isle Casino was required to preserve live harness racing as part of its operation. A new provision would allow the site to drop the sport.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Coblentz said.

Even though senate bill 8A doesn’t explicitly kill the standardbred racing industry, if this is signed into law, these families have already been told this will be their last season on the track.

State representative Dan Daley grew up raising standardbreds and is fighting the bill.

“They’ve already filed a planning and zoning application to redevelop their property without a racetrack,” he said. “Obviously we want job creation, but with the same stroke of a pen you’re eliminating potentially 10,000 jobs.”

Daley said 10,000 Florida families would directly or indirectly take a hit from this decision; including equine veterinarians, feed suppliers, as well as 67 farms and seven training facilities would be impacted.

“We can’t sell out these ten thousand families for an out of state gaming company,” he said.


About the Author:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.