Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Let the Dogs out; Save Scrub Jays

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Let the Dogs out; Save Scrub Jays

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Racing realities

The complicated, $3 billion proposed gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe continues to lumber through the Legislature, with no guarantee it will pass.

That's because, besides providing for more gaming and exclusivity rights for Seminole casinos, the agreement grants concessions to Florida dog and horse tracks, jai alai frontons, the state lottery and daily fantasy sports websites.

As we've said before, the Legislature can simplify the measure by dealing with one aspect separately: a provision that would let dog- track owners abandon racing but retain other, existing forms of gambling such as poker rooms.

That process is called "decoupling."

Currently, Florida law requires dog-track owners to provide live racing in order to offer more lucrative types of gambling such as card games.

Yet, neither the state's racing industry nor animal-rights groups support the dog-racing mandate. And, based on dramatic drops in attendance and betting at tracks, few gamblers seem to care about it either.

The total handle -- the amount bet at Florida pari-mutuels that feature dog racing -- fell 72 percent from 1990 to 2013. In the same period, taxes and fees paid by tracks to the state dropped by 98 percent.

Meanwhile, concerns about the treatment and safety of racing greyhounds abound. Racing-related deaths in Florida are well documented. Media have cited evidence that dogs have been drugged -- with cocaine, for example. And there have long been questions about the conditions under which dogs are kept and "retired."

Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp -- now a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, a group of breeders and kennel owners -- said in a recent story by the Herald-Tribune's Lloyd Dunkelberger that Florida voters "never contemplated that these race tracks would be converted to casinos."

Kottkamp was lieutenant governor and a legislator when much of that conversion was taking place. …

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