Greyhound racing could fade away under legislation that would empower track owners to drop the events and still maintain money-makers like card rooms and slot machines.
A House bill sponsored by Tampa Republican
Dana Young removes the state mandate that track owners must run a minimum of 100 live events each year to qualify for other licenses, including card rooms and slot machines.
The bill passed the House Finance & Tax committee today and has one more committee stop. Similar legislation is working its way through the Senate.
Young said her legislation (HB 1145) gets greyhound racing off government-sponsored life support. Since 1990, she said, the amount of state taxes collected for live greyhound racing has declined by 96 percent, from more than $75 million to less than $2.7 million.
“At many facilities, live dog racing events are a money losing proposition, which, absent the mandate, may not take place,” she said.
Supporters of the bill include some track owners and animal rights groups. Critics include greyhound breeders, who say it would cost jobs, and gambling opponents, who say that it could open the door to an expansion of poker and card rooms.
Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill so that voters in each county would decide whether to remove the mandate. Voters in 1958 approved greyhound racing, he said, not card rooms or off-track parlors.
The bill, he said, “means you can expand card rooms if you do away with greyhound racing.”
Young called that a “red herring,” saying her bill actually reduces gambling and has no provisions that makes it easier for track owners to get card room licenses.
"There is not one new card room permit that will be issued as a result of this bill," she said.
Van Zant and committee chairman
Stephen Precourt voted against the bill.