Lawmakers say greyhound racing persists only because of an outdated law

It has to do with a piece of legislation -- and state lawmakers simply have a hard time over turning it.

Greyhound racing has been around for the past 100 years, but animal activists have been crying for its end for years and the truth is that it just doesn't make money. So why does greyhound racing still persist?

That lies in legislation from 2001.

As the law stands now any establishment that has a card room license and a dog track must race at least 90 percent of the races it held the year before in order to keep its card room license. The card rooms rake in money; in Florida the profit of card rooms has gone up from $1 million to $8 million since 2006. 

The greyhound racing is another story; racing brings in only 50 percent of the profit it brought in 2006 according to the most recently published report by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

A bill approving "decoupling" would allow the card rooms to operate without the races if they choose.

"Name one other industry where we tell a business you have to run your business like you did in 1998. It's completely ridiculous. There's no demand for this, so if owners had the option they would end it because they are losing money," said Florida House Representative Jared Moskowitz. 

Florida Senator Dana Young from Tampa said she has been proposing and working on similar bills every year since 2011.

"Greyhound racing is an artificial market. You know why they have that market?" Young asked, "Because the state gave it to them."

Jamie Shelton owns Orange Park's Best Bet where greyhounds race and people bet on cards.

"You've heard that greyhound industry is going down and down and down and down. And that's true and true and true and true," Shelton said at a Jacksonville Rotary meeting in July.

Shelton said that when greyhound racing was in its prime it was much like flying in the days of PanAm women and pin striped suits.

"It was a big deal; you've seen the pictures of people riding airlines back in the day that wore suits and ties like us. Not anymore. And the same kind of thing has happened to the greyhound industry," Shelton said. 

But not everyone is in favor of decoupling. State Representative Clay Yarborough said in a statement that decoupling would allow for gambling expansion in Florida and that would be bad for families and businesses, so he doesn't support it. 

Furthermore, when bills for decoupling come up to the floor, if they even make it that far, are bogged down with other amendments which cause the bill to be hard to pass. 

"They've been holding this issue hostage. They know this is…other than the Seminole Compact, they know decoupling is the number one gaming issue.  They say, we'll give you decoupling if you give us everything else," Moskowitz said.

Another concern bubbles to the surface for people like Shelton and those involved in the racing industry: what will happen to the dogs and jobs?

Shelton said he is not for suddenly ending racing because people have built their livelihoods on the racing industry.

As card room wagering grows more lucrative in Florida, lawmakers plan to draft yet another bill for decoupling, but it is unclear at this time whether it will be any more successful than the ones which came before it.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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