Two new bills introduced in Florida are expected to have an impact on the fate of greyhound racing in the state. One of them seeks to decouple greyhound racing from gambling while the other seeks to maintain the traditional link between the two businesses.
A fierce battle has been ongoing in Florida for the past few years between the tracks operating cardrooms, greyhound activists and the greyhound industry. Race tracks are facing large losses due to declining interest in greyhound racing, but decoupling the two is likely to result in the death of the dog racing industry.
Carlos Guillermo Smith for Florida
The state’s complicated regulatory system for gambling laid down in 1931 is the reason for this situation. The law requires gaming facilities to operate live performances by way of dog and horse races for them to get a license for gambling. The issue has come to the fore again this year as the state is renegotiating the 2010 gaming compact it has with the Seminole tribe that nets it over $3 billion in tax revenue. The tribe has exclusive rights to operate slots outside of South Florida according to the compact.
House bill H 7037 introduced by Rep. Mike La Rosa, a chair of the tourism and gaming subcommittee cracks down on gambling by banning slot machines in eight counties barring a few, and binds greyhounds to gaming until 2036 when the new contracts ends.
The other bill is Senate bill SB8 which expands gambling allowing any county in the state that has approved slot machines to set them up and also decouples them from live events. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano.
Some lawmakers believe GREY2K, a national advocacy group for greyhounds could possibly succeed to decouple racing from the gaming this year. GREY2K was co-founded by Carey Theil recently joined the fight and is working towards outlawing greyhound racing nationwide.
According to Theil, tracks should not be forced to race dogs just so that they can operate cardrooms. He has highlighted financial results from the state which show that race tracks operated at a total loss of $31.2 million in 2015.
Opposing him is Jack Cory, a lobbyist for the greyhound industry who believes that the business offers profitable and reliable income for farmers, trainers and dog breeders. He believes that the racing dogs are well cared for and the industry’s decline is because of track owners. Greyhound racing has been dropping in popularity across the nation. Currently only 19 dog tracks are still operational across the country with 12 of them being located in Florida.