Category Archives: dog racing

UPDATE: Florida Supreme Court Allows Deceptively Dangerous Greyhound Amendment to go on ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the greyhound amendment that seemingly ends all the dangers associated with greyhound racing. Unfortunately, the Florida amendment does no such thing and many argued the language in the amendment was deceptively dangerous and it would actually create mini-casinos all around the state, something known as decoupling. Right now, the dog racing is needed to allow the slot machines and other gambling at these facilities. For quite some time now, those machines have been the true bread and butter and the only thing really keeping the industry afloat. The amendment being proposed doesn’t end all of that harmful gambling, instead it decouples the dog racing meaning that so long as they still show dog racing from another venue on screen and take bets, they can continue to operate the mini-casinos. Most people who would support ending dog racing believe in ending the gambling all together, and it was argued in court that the amendment the Florida voters would vote on doesn’t make that clear. It was also pointed out that an issue like this belongs in the legislature and not as a constitutional amendment. The lower court called the amendment “out right trickeration,” but the Florida Supreme court ruled the language was sufficient to appear on the ballot, so now Florida voters must untangle this deception on their own. Florida Politics breaks down the ruling:

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered a proposed *constitutional
amendment that would ban betting on live greyhound racing back on the ballot, reversing a lower-court judge. 

The court, in a 6-1 decision, overturned a previous order by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled that Amendment 13’s ballot title and summary would mislead voters, calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’  ” Justice Peggy A. Quince dissented.

Jack Cory, spokesman and lobbyist for the *Florida Greyhound Association, which filed the legal challenge, said his group was “disappointed in the decision today… In a statement, Cory said the proposed constitutional change was made from “false and misleading information,” mentioning what he called the creation of “freestanding casinos” — a point the majority refuted, however. “This is the reason that you should not put issues like this into the Florida Constitution.”

[Justice] Quince said in a short dissent that “there is no reasonable way for a voter to know whether, by voting yes for this amendment, they are also voting to either suspend or expand” other gambling.

 

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Update: Florida Supreme Court to Decide if Deceptive Greyhound Amendment will make it on the Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the greyhound amendment that was initially headed to the November ballot in Florida. The amendment’s language is very confusing and doesn’t explain well enough what it really does. The issue isn’t as simple as banning greyhound racing. It’s a more complex issue known as decoupling, and it will effectively leave stand alone mini-casinos in the wake. Its been explained why that would be a far worse situation for Florida families. The Amendment was immediately challenged and the bench judge said a full trial wouldn’t be need, and it was a legal issue that could be ruled on quickly. As outlined by Florida PoliticsCircuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled against the Amendment:

The association challenged the amendment, saying its ballot title and summary would mislead voters. Circuit Judge *Karen* *Gievers* already has agreed in a harshly-worded ruling, striking the measure earlier this month and calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ”

She said Amendment 13’s title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.

Despite this ruling, Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments yesterday, but didn’t give much of an indication how they are leaning on the issue. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice, Major B. Harding, argued against it to the Court and explained the many issues wrong with the amendment, including the argument made during at the appellate level that outlined how this issue belongs in the legislature, not as a constitutional amendment which is reserved for fundamental values. Florida Politics continues:  

The Florida Supreme Court will now consider whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment ending live greyhound racing. Lawyers for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association gave argument Wednesday before the state’s seven justices. As usual, the court offered no clue when it might rule.

Major B. Harding, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents the Greyhound Association, had previously argued the title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida.”

When Justice Peggy Quince suggested some voters may be interested in getting rid of dog racing but not in saying animal welfare is a “fundamental value,” [Deputy Solicitor General Jordan] Pratt said a title and summary don’t have to allude to the policy behind an amendment.

Harding later told the justices a vote for Amendment 13 would “constitutionally disconnect” dog racing from other gaming; slot machines in South Florida are provided for in another amendment.

He said the language also doesn’t make clear to voters that the amendment’s passage would create “freestanding casinos” because other gambling activities would not be affected. “Why would you include such a significant statement … and not disclose it?” Harding said. “It’s misleading and it’s inappropriate.”

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UPDATE: Florida Greyhound Amendment wont need a trial: Bench Judge to Determine if the Amendment is Misleading

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various decoupling efforts in the greyhound industry. Currently dog racing must take place at the tracts in order for the facility to offer slot machines or other forms of gambling. During an effort to ban greyhound racing, legislative leaders took a turn that would effectively allow the greyhound industry to stop offering live racing, but would be able to still operate the other gambling activities, effectively creating mini casinos. Its been outlined before why this is the wrong avenue to take regarding a proper end to dog racing while safe guarding Florida families from the dangers of mini-casino type gambling.

This decoupling effort is not coming through the legislative process where it belongs, but rather through an attempted legislative amendment. Former Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, has been outspoken on the issue and explained the many reasons this constitutional amendment would be misleading to the public and the wrong legal avenue to regulate the industry. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Hardin joined the legal efforts as well. The primary method for stopping this dangerously deceptive decoupling amendment is a lawsuit and it now appears a full trial wont be necessary. An online source reports: 

A circuit judge has canceled a July trial over the ballot language in Amendment 13, which would ban greyhound racing in the state of Florida. The Florida Greyhound Association claims the ballot summary is misleading and is asking for the proposed constitutional amendment to be removed from the November ballot. Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers has decided to forego a trial and instead make her decision based on legal arguments alone.

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw greyhound racing at dog tracks by 2020, a process known as “decoupling.” Tracks would still be allowed to operate other, more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines and poker rooms.

“You can lie to the CRC, you can even lie to the media,” said Jack Cory, with the Florida Greyhound Association. “You cannot lie to the court under oath without severe consequences. So we’re very comfortable with where the judge’s ruling was.”

Regardless of how the circuit court rules, both sides are gearing up for a heated legal battle, which will likely end up in the Florida Supreme Court.

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UPDATE: Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joins Legal Battle to Prevent Dangerously Deceptive Decoupling Greyhound Bill from Appearing on the Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to completely remove the gambling associated with greyhound racing from Florida. This was not something that passed in the legislature this year, so the idea was to propose the idea through the constitutional amendment committee. It started a as a full removal, but it didn’t have the votes to pass as is, so it quickly morphed into a very dangerous and quite frankly deceptive decoupling bill. If you remove the greyhound racing, but allow slot machines and other types of gambling, all that you have done is created a network of mini-casinos.

Many don’t like the idea of the dog races, so they wouldn’t ordinarily stop at those places to gamble, but if no races exist, then its simply a convenient place to stop and gamble, and that can lead to all kinds of negative effects for Florida families. Many see this new amendment as simply eliminating the greyhound racing and gambling all together, so it’s a very deceptive bill. Beyond those reasons, there is also the problems with using the Florida constitution to be the legal space to enact such a change, especially when such a change should be done through normal legislation. The desire to solve this problem the proper way, has generated a lawsuit, and now some major support and legitimacy to the position has been established with a new addition to the legal team. Florida Politics explains:

Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Harding has joined the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA) legal team. The addition of Harding, a high court appointee of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, was announced Wednesday by association general counsel Jeff Kottkamp. Harding served on the Florida Supreme Court 1991-2002; Kottkamp was Florida’s lieutenant governor from 2007-11 under Gov. Charlie Crist.

“The suit requests that the court strike Amendment 13 from the general election ballot,” Harding said in a statement. “The basis for our challenge is that the ballot title and summary do not fairly inform the voters of what they are being asked to vote on … In order to maintain the integrity of both the election process and our Constitution, we believe the amendment should be struck.”

Among other claims, the suit says the ballot title and summary “… fail to inform voters that its passage would essentially expand gambling by allowing pari-mutuel facilities in Florida to convert to mini-casinos.” The amendment would allow other gambling activities such as card games to continue at tracks after dog racing ends.

Kottkamp and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge and now also on the FGA legal team, have previously opined against the measure, saying the CRC “was never intended to be a ‘super-Legislature’ or a vehicle to propose putting issues in the constitution that ‘can’t get through the Legislature.’

“And, it was certainly never intended they would place proposals on the ballot merely because they were thought to be a ‘good idea,’ ” they said.

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UPDATE: Greyhound Industry Sues to Remove Dog Racing ‘Decoupling’ Ban from Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to ban greyhound racing, but typically leave the gambling behind. This practice essentially creates mini-casinos and has been referred to as decoupling. Many are excited for the dog racing to come to an end, but most of those same proponents would like to see the gambling at those establishments end as well. An Amendment was proposed to do just that, but Florida State Sen. Tom Lee said he couldn’t get the amendment passed unless he allowed for the other forms of gambling to stay. Some who are opposed, such as former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, believe this is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be passed as a constitutional amendment. It’s a complicated issue that isn’t very clear to would be voters who might believe the ban will eliminate the dog racing and all other gambling at the tracks. This is part of the basis for a new lawsuit filed to stop the constitutional amendment form going to the ballot in Nov. The Ledger explains: 

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw greyhound racing at dog tracks by 2020, a process known as “decoupling.” Tracks would still be allowed to operate other, more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines and poker rooms.

But the Florida Greyhound Association and its president, breeder James Blanchard, maintain that the proposed ballot title and summary don’t fully inform voters about the impact of the amendment if approved. In a complaint filed Thursday in Leon County circuit court, lawyers for the plaintiffs raised what they deem numerous flaws in the amendment, which was backed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Massachusetts-based advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide.

Among the shortcomings alleged by the plaintiffs: The proposal does not advise voters that dog tracks still would be allowed to broadcast live greyhound races from other states. And the measure would only ban “commercial” dog racing, which means that kennel clubs would be allowed to continue dog competitions, the complaint says.

There is also concern that the law is entirely too broad as to how it attempts to regulate the dog racing industry. There is worry that it could impact animals in ways clearly not intended by the amendments authors. The Ledger continues: 

The lawsuit also alleges that the text of the proposal — which voters won’t see on the ballot — could have implications far beyond the greyhound-racing industry

The proposed amendment says the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” That language “might ultimately apply to animals other than dogs,” plaintiffs’ lawyers Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieuten.ant governor, and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge, wrote in the 17-page complaint.

“For example, would this statement, once adopted by voters who were not informed that it was contained in the amendment, be utilized in the future to limit horse racing? To limit the use of hunting dogs? A voter who favors ending dog racing might very well decline to pass an amendment with such a broadly-stated provision for fear that once adopted as status quo in connection to dog racing, such statement might be expanded to limit or prohibit other activities or livelihoods that involve other animals,” the lawyers wrote.

Most viewed the filing of the lawsuit as a natural progression of an industry attempting to save the racing. Others believe it’s the wrong approach to actually ending the greyhound racing industry and more definitive steps should be taken. Beyond the specifics, there are those that believe the lawsuit wont succeed and the issue will end up on the Nov Ballot as Amendment 13. 

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UPDATE: Despite Florida Supreme Court Ruling, Gadsden Looking to Authorize Slots in North Florida Again

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of a north Florida county attempting to legalize slot machines. Florida law very clearly outlines the jurisdictions of where slot machines and other gambling are legal, and Gadsden county is not one. The issue of voter approved slot machines in not designated areas reached the Florida Supreme Court and they unanimously agreed Florida law prohibited such gambling venues. However, it appears a new bill has been filed to again allow Gadsden County to hold a referendum on authorizing slot machine gambling at the local race track. Florida Politics breaks down the attempted angle they are taking:

A unanimous Florida Supreme Court last year ruled against the track and facilities in seven other counties that previously passed local referendums allowing slots, saying “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The holding was limited to non-charter counties, however. Gadsden does not have a charter but did pass a slots referendum in 2012. Tuesday’s bill responds to the court’s ruling that “the Legislature did not specifically authorize” that referendum.

It would OK the following ballot question: “Shall slot machine gaming be authorized at the pari-mutuel quarter horse racing facility in the City of Gretna?”

The issue was quickly addressed by Executive Direct of Florida group No Casinos, and Paul Seago was very to the point in his opposition:

“First, we think it violates the Florida Constitution, which prohibits expansion of casino gambling without a statewide vote,” he said. “Second, it sets up a violation of the compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, jeopardizing millions of dollars in revenue.”

The Seminole Tribe of Florida enjoys exclusive rights to offers slots outside of South Florida; breaking that exclusivity entitles the Tribe to reduce or stop paying a cut of its gambling revenue to the state.

“Third, any municipality that thinks casino gambling is a key to economic development need look no further than Atlantic City to see the associated crime and social ills that come with it,” Seago added. “For these reasons we will vigorously oppose HB 1111.”

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Florida Greyhound Ban Clears First Hurdle and will be presented to Committee: Decoupling Issue Remains Unclear, but more Support for a Ban Grows

Casino Watch Focus has reported that a new and unique avenue for banning greyhound races was being proposed by Sen. Tom Lee. As a member of the Constitutional Revision Committee, he planned to bring forward a bill that if approved, would go to state voters and seeks to ban greyhound racing. The General Provisions Committee is putting the resolution in front of the Executive Committee. The issue of decoupling is still vague, so its unclear if this would pave the way for stand alone poker rooms or if this would shut those down along with the dog racing. An online source reports:

As debate regarding the industry rages on, a proposed constitutional amendment could put the decision on the future of greyhound racing – and, by extension, live poker – in the hands of the voters of Florida.

The General Provisions Committee decided on Thursday to put the potential resolution in front of the entire Executive Committee. Called Proposal 67, the resolution would ban greyhound racing effective December 31, 2019. According to Saunders, the original plan was for the ban to be slowly phased in with an effective date of July 21, but the General Provisions Committee moved up the date. “We should do this as quickly as we feasibly can,” commission member Brecht Heuchan said to Saunders.

By state law, the only way that a greyhound track can offer a poker room is if they offer a significant racing schedule and pari-mutuel betting. There have been discussions for several years about separating the greyhound tracks and the poker rooms, but they have been unable to separate the two industries. If Proposal 67 were first to get on the ballot in 2018 and then be voted through by 60% of the citizenry of Florida, there would be significant issues because of the linkage.

The proposed constitutional amendment isn’t necessarily looking at gambling or poker being offered at the tracks. Many of the members of the constitutional committee are more concerned with the perceived issues that have plagued the racing industries for years. As Lee stated to Saunders, “As we’ve evolved, we’ve banned all sorts of activities that have been considered cruel to animals: bullfighting and cockfighting and all kinds of things. To me, this is just the next step on that plane of becoming more sensitive to this kind of inhumanity.”

More supporters looking to free dogs from the realities of this harmful environment have come forward. In an editorial sent out to multiple publications, including the Palm Beach Post Online:

Kate MacFall, the Florida State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, laid out a passionate plea to end greyhound racing, some of which is blow:

With 12 of the 18 dog tracks nationwide in our state, Florida has the most dog-racing operations in the U.S., thanks to our state government’s actions to prop up the industry. Greyhound racing is illegal in 40 states, and now is the time to add Florida to the list.

On average, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. Many more are injured. Even if dogs don’t end up injured or dead, their lives are ones of abject misery.

Just this year, two more cases of dog “doping” have been added to the long list of violations. In one case, two trainers at a Jacksonville-area track were cited when dozens of greyhound blood tests came up positive for cocaine, with one greyhound testing positive six different times.

The total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declined by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016. 

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