End to greyhound racing in sight


End to greyhound racing in
sight

 |
April 29th, 2011

Dog tracks would no longer have
to run dog races but could continue to operate the more lucrative card rooms
under a measure passed by the Senate and awaiting secondary House
approval.

Sen. Maria Sachs, the bill
sponsor, said the bill is needed so the state can stop bailing out the dying
greyhound racing industry while keeping the tracks alive.

Palm Beach Kennel Club owners
support the measure in part because fewer races will make their dog races more
valuable when broadcast over simulcast at other tracks. Only three of the
state’s existing 16 dog tracks, including PBKC, are expected to continue to keep
running the dogs if the bill becomes law.

The measure would also benefit
PBKC because it is one of the seven tracks that now purchase tax credits from
other tracks who are eligible for the tax breaks but don’t generate enough
revenue to use them.

Critics of the measure include
the dog owners and breeders, who claim that doing away with the races will put
thousands of workers out of a job.

But Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said
the state would no longer have to subsidize “a business model that’s no longer
profitable” through tax breaks as public interest in the races – and revenues
from them – decline. Revenues generated for the state from dog racing have
plummeted by more than half over the past 10 years, from about $40 million in
2000 to about $5.2 million last year.

The measure created a stir on the
floor as some Republicans tried to amend the bill to accommodate the state’s
thoroghbred industry.

Sen. Jack Latvala,
R-Clearwater, alleged that senators seeking to file the amendments were “were
intimidated out of them.”

Senate Rules Chairman John
Thrasher, a former lobbyist who three years ago represented the Jacksonville
Kennel Club, which opposed the amendments, disagreed, saying he didn’t want to
bring up amendments that had not been previously heard.

Senate President Mike
Haridopolos, arms crossed and frowning at the podium, was not pleased by the
exchange.

“If you want to continue to
debate we will stay here as long as people want to continue to debate,”
Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said. “We’re going to move this bill out of here
today because I think we should focus on other bills.”

Left to defend her bill before
the vote, Sachs reminded her colleagues that “it’s a dog bill pure and simple.
Started as a dog bill and I want it to end as a dog bill.”

The Senate passed the House’s
bill (HB 1145) by a 25-14 but made one change before sending it back for another
vote. The Senate version would phase in changes to the tax credits tracks get
for running the races over five years.

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