Greyhound legislation moves ahead

Greyhound legislation moves ahead in Florida

Greyhound racing could fade away under
legislation that would empower track owners to drop the events and still
maintain money-makers like card rooms and slot machines.

A House bill sponsored by Tampa
Republican Dana Young removes the state mandate that track owners must run a
minimum of 100 live events each year to qualify for other licenses, including
card rooms and slot machines. The bill passed the House Finance & Tax
committee today and has one more committee stop.

Similar legislation is working its way
through the Senate. Young said her legislation (HB 1145) gets greyhound racing
off government-sponsored life support. Since 1990, she said, the amount of state
taxes collected for live greyhound racing has declined by 96 percent, from more
than $75 million to less than $2.7 million. “At many facilities, live dog racing
events are a money losing proposition, which, absent the mandate, may not take
place,” she said. Supporters of the bill include some track owners and animal
rights groups.

Critics include greyhound breeders, who
say it would cost jobs, and gambling opponents, who say that it could open the
door to an expansion of poker and card rooms. Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka,
unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill so that voters in each county would
decide whether to remove the mandate.

Voters in 1958 approved greyhound racing,
he said, not card rooms or off-track parlors. The bill, he said, “means you can
expand card rooms if you do away with greyhound racing.” Young called that a
“red herring,” saying her bill actually reduces gambling and has no provisions
that makes it easier for track owners to get card room licenses.

“There is not one new card room permit
that will be issued as a result of this bill,” she said. Van Zant and committee
chairman Stephen Precourt voted against the bill.


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