TALLAHASSEE – Some Florida legislators are making a push again this year to end a requirement that greyhound dog-tracks have on-site races if they want to keep card games and other betting options.
Florida has 12 tracks that currently feature greyhound racing, but legislators and some animal activists contend that racing is harmful to the dogs.
“We need to free the greyhounds from this senseless activity of racing,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood.
But despite the support of some top lawmakers the proposal stalled in a Senate committee today.
Instead, the panel passed a stripped down bill sponsored by Sobel that requires dog tracks around the state to report all injuries to racing greyhounds.
Most of Florida’s current dog tracks make money off other types of gambling, including off-track betting, poker rooms and slot machines in south Florida. But state law requires the tracks to have a full schedule of races each year in order to keep their gambling permits.
Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, tried to get the Senate Gaming Committee to pass a provision that would end the racing requirement and allow tracks to decide if they wanted to keep scheduling races.
She said she dropped the effort after questions arose over whether the wording would allow currently-shuttered tracks to reopen.
Other senators on the panel, however, said it was clear there weren’t enough votes to pass the proposal in its current form.
That doesn’t mean the issue is over for the session that ends in early May.
The greyhound bill is the only major gambling measure that remains alive after lawmakers pulled the plug on a comprehensive bill that would have allowed resort casinos in south Florida.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, voted against Sobel’s bill because he said legislators should not consider any piecemeal changes to gambling laws. He said that if lawmakers were really concerned about the welfare of greyhounds they should pass a bill to revoke all dog track permits.
“If we believe so much in the humane treatment of animals, why don’t we realize this industry is dead?” Lee said.