Promotes Long Run Stability, Investment in Florida’s Signature Thoroughbred Industry

BY THE FLORIDA HORSE STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The Florida Legislature passed a sweeping omnibus tax package (HB 7073) March 8 that includes the extension of Florida’s all-time strongest Thoroughbred breeding and racing incentives and maintains state funding of Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) federal regulatory assessments.

“We were excited to be able to expand Florida’s investment supporting the Florida Thoroughbred Industry on a long-term basis,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Stan McClain (R-Ocala) said. “I’m looking forward to watching how this investment helps the industry thrive in upcoming years. It takes a team to accomplish such a monumental achievement. This would not have happened without the hard work and dedication from Matt Bryan, Jon Rees, and Lonny Powell. It was my honor to serve as the bill sponsor and Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. I look forward to supporting the Thoroughbred industry in Tallahassee in the years to come.”

In 2023, the Florida Legislature enacted a two-year breeding and racing stimulus package totaling more than $66 million. This year’s bill, HB 7073, removes a two-year statutory sunset and extends critical industry funding that annually includes:
• $15 million in purses and/or facility improvements at Gulfstream Park, with a similar $5 million going to Tampa Bay Downs
• $5 million for the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association breeding and racing incentives and/or promotions; and
• $2.5 million in additional Florida-bred racing incentives
Coupled with more than $5.5 million in annual racetrack tax credits to offset HISA funding assessments, the recurring annual stimulus combines to about $33 million for Florida Thoroughbreds.

The extended annual funding provides long-term stability and enhances a Florida industry already on the upswing in 2024 thanks to new programs such as 20% statutory maximum breeder awards for Florida-breds in Florida races, $18,000 added for Florida-breds in maiden special weight and allowance races at Tampa Bay Downs, and all-time high FTBOA and Florida-bred Incentive Funds in Gulfstream Park races. Overall breeder and stallion incentives increased more than 50% in 2024 while racing incentives gained 66%, combining for more than $15 million in FTBOA-backed incentives.

The FTBOA expresses sincerest gratitude to the Florida Legislature for its passage of HB 7073.

“First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to thank stalwart industry supporters Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) and House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast),” FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell said. “Without their leadership and commitment, the continuation of this economic development program would not be possible. I also give a huge salute to our Smith, Bryan and Myers lobby team, led by our rock stars Matt Bryan and Jon Rees. Florida is a rare jurisdiction in managing and navigating challenges and turning them into meaningful successes.”

“Once again, the legislative sponsors of last year’s breeding and racing development program stepped up in a big way,” FTBOA president George Isaacs said. “I’d like to personally thank Marion County’s very own Representative Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) for continuing their support of this program. We have also enjoyed support from the state’s legislative and industry leaders, including Representative Lawrence McClure (R-Dover).

“Led by CEO Lonny Powell, lobbyists Matt Bryan and Jon Rees, general counsel Warren Husband and a very talented staff and dynamic board, we collectively are helping shape the vibrancy of the Florida breeding and racing industry through legislative efforts and good leadership decisions,” Isaacs added. “This will go a long way in ensuring a healthy industry for the future.”

The Florida equine industry drives an estimated $12.8 billion contribution to the Florida economy, one-quarter of which comes from the $3.24 billion economic impact generated by Florida Thoroughbreds—an impact larger than the total combined contribution from all of Florida’s collegiate athletics. Florida is a perennial top producer of Thoroughbred runners, second-ranked source of national stakes-winners, and the global leader in racehorse training and juvenile sales.

“This is a huge accomplishment for our industry. We’ve spent more than 10 years traveling the roadways, pressing the flesh, attending hearings, and negotiating to finally get the recognition our beloved industry needs to continue to grow and thrive,” FTBOA immediate past president Valerie Dailey said. “It’s been a long haul, but we now have a lot to look forward to revitalizing our industry.”

FTBOA lobbyist Jon Rees emphasized investment spurred by stability of funding. “The Florida legislature held up its end of the bargain, removing the statutory sunset of the two year program passed in 2023. I’m excited to see how the industry will respond to the call, expanding its investment in Florida breeding and racing to cement Florida as the Horse Capital of the World®”

“Continued enhanced incentives will lead to growth in new members getting into the Florida industry and further investment within the state, including the purchase of bloodstock and farms. From breeding to the racetrack, it’s a three-year cycle and the early feedback I am receiving from our members is they appreciate this visionary approach,” associate vice president, membership and events Tammy Gantt said.

“HB 7073 funds Florida’s HISA obligations 100 percent, preserving industry purses and other resources for growth,” said FTBOA’s Steve Koch. “A fully funded HISA, robust Florida-bred racing incentives and maximum breeder awards set three pillars upon which Florida remains a national benchmark of stability.”

“It’s an exciting time to be in the Florida Thoroughbred industry, our incentives are competitive with any other state,” FTBOA past president and current board member Brent Fernung said. “Look at what this legislation has done at Tampa Bay Downs. Their commitment to the racing program has increased field sizes. This is a great time to be buying or selling Florida 2-year-olds at OBS.”

“The legislative package known as HB7073 is a great stimulus for the Florida horse racing industry,” FTBOA board member Jerry Campbell said. “It is good for breeders, owners and racetracks in Florida. Florida is a great horseracing state and HB7073 made it even better. The boost of the Thoroughbred industry is $33 million, plus a large multiplier impact. Based on this positive factor I went out and purchased 16 additional fillies and broodmares. FTBOA was a prime mover in this great effort. Lonny Powell, our leader, made a great impact on behalf of the horse racing industry.  believe the Florida Thoroughbred industry future is looking good.”

“Due to the outstanding leadership of Representative Stan McClain and Senate President Passidomo, the Florida Thoroughbred industry has been significantly recognized for the substantial economic impact it has in our state. This legislation is a game changer,” said FTBOA past president Phil Matthews.

“What an incredible encore to last year’s legislative success,” FTBOA board member and past president George Russell said. “The benefits to all participants in the Florida Thoroughbred industry are tremendous. Success of this magnitude is hard to achieve. Of course, it took many years of documenting the significance of the industry to the state, educating legislators about that fact, and year after year meetings one on one with key legislators.

“Thanks to Lonny and FTBOA staff, our lobbyist Matt Bryan and Jon Rees and our legislators since none of this would have been possible without them.”

“It is mind settling to know that we are on the right path for the industry,” FTBOA board member and owner of Stonehedge Farm South Marilyn Campbell said. “The extra incentives are encouraging for the Florida Breeder. I would like to thank all our representatives, Lonny and his team, Matt Bryan and Warren Husband for their perseverance. It’s a win-win situation for the tracks, the breeders and owners.

“I’m very excited about the landmark passing of HB 7073 and the significant contributions it provides the Florida thoroughbred industry,” FTBOA board member and Shooting Star Thoroughbreds’ Mary Lightner said. “Its passage represents a vote of confidence and assurance that acknowledges the steadfast commitment of the Thoroughbred community. It is also vital to multi-faceted thoroughbred entities and their ability to operate and thrive.”