Last week State Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray Beach, proposed a new bill that would allow greyhound tracks to keep their slot machines and poker tables, even if they don't actually race dogs on-premises. The bill (SB 1594) would end the 15-year-old live-racing requirement established in an effort to keep the tracks afloat as their racing revenues and attendance decline. Though Florida is often considered the mecca of modern dog racing in this country, over the last eight years, taxes and fees paid to the government from greyhound racing have dropped a whopping 96 percent, according to the Palm Beach Post.
A similar bill is proposed in the Florida House (HB 1145). And though lobby groups like the Florida Greyhound Association say the bills could eliminate 3,000 jobs and halt nearly $50 million in state business, track operators are actually in favor of the new legislation. A lobbyist for the Palm Beach Kennel Club recent said that shutting down some tracks would be good for the industry overall. For the tracks, running dogs is a losing business, one that they maintain only so they can reap the massive profits from newer gambling like slots and poker.
Right now, Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center in Hallandale Beach is losing $2.5 million a year on dog racing, according to Dan Adkins, the track president. The Flagler dog track in Miami is reportedly losing nearly $2 million a year.
Activist groups like Grey2K USA point out that the dogs themselves also suffer, everything from closed-confinement for as many as 22 hours a day to broken bones (like my greyhound has) to on-track deaths. And of course there are the disgusting atrocities like the one uncovered last year at the Ebro track, where 20 greyhounds were found starved to death in a trainer's kennel.
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"If approved, these will significantly reduce, and possibly end, greyhound racing in the Sunshine State altogether this year," Grey2K USA executive director Carey Theil wrote in a recent email to supporters. ("This year" was underlined.) The organization is asking racing opponents to write and call their representatives immediately and ask them to help pass these bills. For supporters (people in favor of ending greyhound racing) who do not live in Florida, Grey2K suggests emailing Governor Rick Scott.
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