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Proposal to reduce racing at greyhound tracks hits the skids

The effort to reduce greyhound racing in Florida hit the skids Tuesday as the sponsor of the amendment was forced to withdraw it when it appeared she didn't have the votes.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, withdrew the measure as worries about election year politics, the looming uncertainty of a gaming compact and the annual jealousies of the bitterly competitive gaming industry overshadowed the debate.

"It was as melt-down,'' said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Tampa, after the meeting. He argued aggressively that the animals lovers in the packed committee room were "being used" by the profiteers in the racing industry to pass a bill being pushed for economic, not humane, reasons.

Lee, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, opposed the measure because they believed it unfairly helped some race tracks obtain an unfair advantage over others. Margolis feared that the proposed language would have opened the door to a casino in Miami. Lobbyists for parimutuels said privately that they feared the language could be used by Gulfstream Racetrack in Broward to use its dormant racing permit to partner with Genting's Resorts World Miami to open a casino in Miami.

The Senate Gaming Committee passed the original bill, SB 742, to require dog tracks to report injuries, however. But Sachs said she needed to work out some kinks in her bill.

Sachs' effort came with some subtle but high-level pressure. As the committee debated her bill, Senate President Don Gaetz arrived in the room and pulled senators aside. His son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a sponsor of the measure in the House, sat in the audience as did Gaetz's wife, Vicky, an animal lover.

Sachs said she will work on another version in an attempt to push it through.