Efforts to allow tracks to stop live racing of greyhounds and operate card rooms failed in Tallahassee this year. The effort was couched in terms of animal cruelty, but it but blew up when legislation requiring tracks to implement safety measures got traction.
First, lawmakers -- including Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville -- tried to allow greyhound tracks to stop racing but keep card rooms.
"The whole reason the tracks wanted to do this was so that they could become casinos," said Jack Cory, of the Florida Greyhound Association. "The greyhound tracks in Florida have had an unholy alliance with Las Vegas for 20 years."
When shutting down dog racing failed, efforts to require injury reporting of the dogs passed the state Senate.
"It just seems to me to be perhaps inhuman in some cases," said Gaetz.
Greyhound racing proponents kept saying there were three things that could be done if people were concerned about greyhound safety. In some tracks the wires powering the mechanical rabbit, known as Rusty, are exposed. They carry 240 volts.
"We put three safety points maintaining the tracks' surface, having a break away on and covering 240 volts of exposed electricity to greyhounds, which is where the majority of the injuries happen. Tracks oppose that," said Cory.
That was enough to kill the legislation, but for breeders like Gene Gurley, every effort to kill racing takes a toll on his breeding farm's revenue.
"If they decoupled, what the heck would you do with 100 dogs? Your investment could be shot," said Gurley. "So we started trimming back a long time ago because every year they come up with this."
Last year, $88 million was bet at greyhound tracks in Florida. Of the $88 million bet last year, $11 million was paid in taxes to the state of Florida, which then gave the track operators an $8 million tax break.