UPDATE: Florida Greyhound Amendment Revealed to be a Decoupling Effort that could Expand Gambling and Create Mini-Casinos – Will Appear on Nov Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the suggested Constitutional Amendment that was sold as an amendment to ban greyhound racing. The unknown element was whether or not the actual language would ban the industry all together, thereby shutting down each track, or if the gambling that’s allowed currently would remain, thereby decoupling the dog racing from the ability to offer simulcasting or free standing slot machine parlors. The Committee has formulated the language and pushed the issue out as a constitutional amendment that will be up for vote by the people in Nov. An online source explains: 

After repeated and heavily lobbied legislative debates in recent years about the future of the greyhound industry, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Monday voted 27-10 to put the proposed ban on the November ballot.

The measure would allow people to continue to bet at pari-mutuel facilities on greyhound races simulcast from other states.

State Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who sponsored the proposal, said allowing betting on races from elsewhere was needed for the measure to advance. 

It appears that early efforts might have been to ban the industry out right, but as Sen. Lee stated, the amendment wouldn’t pass the committee unless it was a decoupling effort. However, this would be far worse than legislation that decouples, as this would be part of the Florida constitution, making any changes to the policy so much harder. In a joint guest article to Florida Politics, Jeff Kottkamp and Paul Hawks outline why this issue shouldn’t be in a constitutional amendment:

Most individuals would agree that the purpose of a constitution is to establish the basic structure of government and the fundamental rights of citizens. The CRC’s greyhound racing proposal is a classic example of a proposal that fails to rise to the level of a constitutional matter. Former Chief Judge of the Florida Supreme Court *Major Harding* is one of many legal scholars who shares the view that the greyhound amendment should not be in the Constitution.

In a column Justice Harding recently wrote, he identified the proposed greyhound amendment as one of three CRC proposals that do not belong in the Constitution noting that Florida’s Constitution is already three times longer than the U.S. Constitution and is “riddled with countless, ordinary laws and specifics of government policy and regulation, such as confinement of pregnant pigs, that lessen its status.” The Editorial Board of the Tallahassee Democrat/USA TODAY NETWORK shares his view and correctly stated in an editorial that the greyhound proposal “ … can be done by statute and doesn’t need to be in the Constitution.”

But beyond the economic impact, the gross misrepresentations from the advocates, the unfairness in preserving monopolies while creating — in essence — mini-casinos, there is a much more important reason that the greyhound proposal should not be advanced by the CRC — it simply does not belong in the Constitution. 

It is expected that the greyhound industry will take legal action to prevent the amendment from reaching the ballot, but there is a good chance it will make the ballot. To that end, a reasonable position to take might be to vote against that amendment and vote for Amendment 3 that gives Florida votes the final say in gambling expansion. Then the issue can be dealt with in the legislature and the people can support or reject the final decision by statewide vote. 

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