Greyhound activists push for racing ban in Florida

Florida greyhound racing ban.

Greyhound racing in Florida has been legislatively linked to gambling since 1931.

The GREY2K advocacy group has joined the gaming feature change fight between Florida’s House Bill H7037 and Senate Bill SB8.

US.- Florida’s House and State leaders have been pushing different gambling bills in an attempt to renegotiate a 2010 agreement with the Seminole tribe and get US$3 billion for the state’s treasury. H7037 and SB8 present clashing ideas and have started a conflict that involves the tribes, 12 owners of race tracks and even Disney World. A national advocacy group called GREY2K has joined the discussion in order to defend greyhound’s cause and, possibly, move forward towards dog racing in the state.

Florida has an intricate gaming regulation system that has been built over the “betting among ourselves” premise, legalised in 1931. The law allowed parimutuels, in the form of live events that included, among other activities, greyhound racing and gambling’s expansion has been linked to said events ever since.

The two bills on Orlando’s table right now have opposing takes on the original form of gambling that links card rooms to dog racing: House bill H7037, pushed by Representative Mike La Rosa, maintains the bond between greyhound racing and gambling until the contract expires in 2036 and also bans slot machines in eight counties that include Lee, Brevard and St. Lucie, that have previoulsy approved them.

On the other side, Senator Bill Galvano runs Senate Bill SB8 that allows any county to approve slot machines and have them and untangles live events from card rooms.

There has been crossed declarations between the parts, including an argument from the tribes that assure that neither plan goes far enough. Also, a warning made by some Republicans about GREY2K’s possible attempt to benefit from the complex ideology, lawsuits and interests plot in order to unlink greyhound racing from card games.

While La Rosa seems open to discuss “depending on the details”, Galvano is not interested in taking up the Representative up on a slot machine-live-events trade and called dog racing “a dying industry”. GREY2K cofounder Carey Theil backed that statement as he referred financial reports from the state that prove a US$31.2 million loss in 2015 and explaining that the number of days for live racing has dropped 39 percent since 2007.

Theil has been frequently aligned with the Senate in its intentions to expand gaming, while standing against House conservatives that want to link live events to card rooms as a strategy to limit gambling in Florida. He has been working in the state since its legislative sessions in 2012.

Lobbyist Jack Cory has accused Theil of being a political opportunist who’s really not involved with the animals and assures that the industry provides a stable, profitable income with less up-front investment than horses for blue-collar dog breeders, farmers and trainers. Cory also criticised race track owners as he assured they keep up to 30 percent of prize money while his clients, who he states are “all of the dog people”, split around 4 percent. He even accused the reports of being fake: “The financial reports to the department are self reporting and are fake reports because they are reporting by millionaires that want to become billionaires by having casinos.”

However, Ron Book, a lobbyist for the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita owned by the Havernick family, belittled Cory’s arguments: “I will not dignify made up ignorant commentary by Mr. Cory who makes things up to suit his interests.” He also said that greyhound racing isn’t profitable “period”. The lobbyist is in favor of SB8 and assured that the Havernick family wants “slots, cards and would love to continue limited racing” for Naples-Fort Myers.