By Jim Freer
The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) has hired Glen Berman as executive director.
Berman, a practicing attorney and registered pharmacist, has held the position of executive director and general counsel for the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) since 2009.
In an announcement Monday, the Florida HBPA said that Berman will begin his duties on Feb. 15. He will succeed Kent Stirling, who has been the FHBPA’s executive director since 1995 and is the only person who has held that job.
Berman’s responsibilities with the FHBPA will be similar to those he has had with the Illinois Horsemen’s group.
He will report to the FHBPA board of directors, headed by its president Bill White.
(Note: The next two paragraphs are verbatim from the FHBPA’s news release on its hiring of Berman)
Berman will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the FHBPA’s programs, staff and mission implementation. Based at the FHBPA’s headquarters at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, he will lead the FHBPA’s efforts to advance, foster and promote horse racing throughout Florida, as well as represent the interests of the FHBPA’s 8,400 licensed Thoroughbred owner and trainer members in all matters affecting horsemen overall.
Berman will work with race track management, regulators, elected officials and various racing and breeding associations—both local and national—to further strengthen and improve Florida’s successful horse racing industry.
“The vote for Glen to come on board was unanimous, and we’re confident he brings the kind of leadership and experience that will pave the way for horsemen’s continued success in Florida for many years to come,” said FHBPA board member Adam Lazarus, who is managing partner of Pinnacle Racing Stables.
Lazarus chaired a national search to find a successor to Stirling, whose contract expired at the end of last year and was not renewed.
It is anticipated that Stirling, a former trainer, will become a consultant to the FHBPA on medication issues. For several years, he has been chairman of the medication committee of the National HBPA.
Issues for 2016
Berman is coming to the FHBPA during a year when one of its biggest concerns is the prospect that the Florida Legislature will allow decoupling for the state’s horse tracks and other pari-mutuels.
If decoupling is approved Florida horse tracks, greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons would no longer be required to hold the live racing and games for which they were originally licensed. But they could keep their poker rooms, in-bound simulcasts (including thoroughbreds) and casinos where permitted.
Note — On Friday Jan.22 we will have a repot on this Web site entitled “Decoupling: The Issues and Possible Impact for Florida’s Thoroughbred Industry”
“Many of the challenges facing Florida horsemen parallel those we’ve faced and met in Illinois during the past six years–a tumultuous time,” Berman said. “I’m looking forward to applying that experience and working with the dedicated FHBPA Board to fully explore all the exciting opportunities Florida holds as one of the major focal points of the world’s horse racing market.”
Berman in Illinois
Berman oversaw dual ITHA offices at Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Course. He was responsible for purse contract negotiation with both racetracks, as well as for the direction of the ITHA’s legislative efforts, including the drafting and lobbying of gaming legislation.
He represented the ITHA at all Illinois Racing Board Meetings and helped create “Galloping Out,” a non-profit dedicated to finding new homes for retired Thoroughbreds.
Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. Ill., and Calder Casino & Race Course are both owned by Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) in Louisville, Ky.
Berman is coming to Florida with experience in dealing with CDI that could prove valuable. The ITHA’s dealings with Arlington Park have often been adversarial, on issues including purse contracts. The FHBPA’s dealings with Calder over the past decade have been even more adversarial.
The ITHA, other Illinois racing industry groups and race tracks have not been able to convince their state’s government, particularly former Gov. Pat Quinn, to allow the state’s racetracks to have casinos
However, the ITHA and its allies have convinced the Illinois Legislature to continue a system in which a portion of slot machine revenues of non pari-mutuel casinos are used to supplement purses at thoroughbred and harness tracks.
A graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent, Berman was awarded his Juris Doctor in 1982. Prior to that, he attended North Dakota State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and minored in Journalism.
At the center of the gaming debate is the revised Seminole Compact that Gov. Rick Scott sent to the Legislature last month. Under that proposal the Seminole Tribe over seven years would pay the Florida government a minimum total of $3 billion, based on percentages of gaming revenues at its seven casinos in Florida.
In its current form, the proposed Compact would not be voided if decoupling is permitted for Florida pari-mutuels.
For ongoing reports on decoupling issues, we suggest that you visit the Florida HBPA-sponsored nodecoupling.com Web site .