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Poker Rooms Bringing in More Money Than Dog Racing at Some Florida Tracks

Even before Florida's new, expanded gambling laws took effect last month, more and more bettors in the Sunshine State were taking their cash to poker tables, and not to the wager windows at dog racing tracks, according to new statistics released by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

The gross receipts from card rooms are up across the board, and at least three tracks in Florida now take in more money from poker room than from racing.

The track in Ebro took in $2.9 million from racing and $3.4 million from the card room. The track in Pensacola took in $1.9 million from bets on dogs and more than $2 million from poker. The Melbourne track had the biggest disparity, though: making just $213,000 from racing greyhounds and more than $4.4 million from poker.

Several dogs died while racing at the Melbourne track during this period.

Mardi Gras Racetrack and Casino, in Hallandale Beach, took in a little more than $10 million from the dogs and $3.4 million from poker. The Palm Beach Kennel Club brought in $69 million from racing and just under $10 million from the card room.

Several local casino directors have suggested that they would gladly shut down the dog racing parts of their operations if they had a choice. The way the law is written, if there's no racing, there's also no slots or cards.

In Florida, to legally operate a poker room or slot machine outside of Seminole property, a casino must have a pari-mutuel license -- dispensed by the DBPR. To maintain such a license, the establishment must hold races a certain number of days per year (180 for dog tracks).

Animal-rights groups like GREY2K USA have been lobbying for years for a law removing the pari-mutuel requirement. "Greyhound racing is dying, while interest in poker continues to increase," says Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K. "Across the state, dog tracks are becoming poker rooms that happen to have dogs running in circles."

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Michael J. Mooney

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