TALAHASSEE, Fla. – Greyhound tracks will be able to offer card games and online betting, but not dog racing, under legislation moving quickly through the state legislature. The legislation is creating a clash of cultures.
Legislation that began as a requirement to report injuries to racing greyhounds has morphed into what is being called de-coupling. Dog tracks will be able to drop racing but keep card rooms or slots.
"A racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. We need better regulations," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Broward County.
As state senators announced their plan to end greyhound racing, the Senate president's wife stroked three dogs at the event. More than four dozen unhappy dog breeders also showed up. Extra security was brought in as a precaution, but was not needed.
Sponsor Sen. Maria Sachs said racing will be optional under her plan.
"Those dog tracks that are losing money, they don't have to continue to race, but they'll be able to operate their business in a business-like model," said Sachs, D-Delray Beach.
The breeders have been fighting to stay alive for more than a decade. Florida is home to 13 tracks that still race.
The breeders and trainers said it's in their best interest to take care of their animals. They blame the tracks for injuries and deaths.
Still, racing advocates said the gaming remains popular.
"Eighty-eight million dollars was bet on live greyhound racing in this state. Eighty-eight million dollars," said Jack Cory, of the Florida Greyhound Association.
Track owners had hoped to offer slots and more under a major expansion of gambling that was on track for this year, but with the expansion dead they are hoping to shed the live events, which are less profitable than card rooms.
The House has been far behind the Senate in its appetite to expand gaming. The House legislation contains only the requirement that tracks report injuries.