Category Archives: dog racing

UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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First Case of De Facto Decoupling Granted in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of those in the dog racing industry to separate the need to continue to allow races as a requisite for allowing slot machines at their facilities. Florida law stated that slot machines were only allowed in certain counties and racing facilities. The dog and horse racing industries in Florida have been struggling. Few bet on the races, the greyhound industry has come under increased scrutiny for mistreatment or drugging of their animals and its been clear that slot machines are the only real think keeping the doors open. Those involved have been attempting to remove the racing requirement so they can simply offer slot machines instead of closing the tracks down. It now appears that one venue has succeeded at getting permission to decouple. The Miami Herald explains: 

Florida gambling regulators this week gave a Miami dog track permission to ditch greyhound races but keep more lucrative slot machines and card games, in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Wednesday granted a request from West Flagler Associates, which operates Magic City Casino in Miami, to replace dog races with jai-alai matches, as part of a drawn-out legal dispute over a controversial “summer jai-alai” permit.

It’s the first time a pari-mutuel facility has been allowed to drop dog or horse races and continue operating slots. 

This isn’t the result of new legislation or action taken by gambling administrators, as much as it is an application of an old 1980 law. But it does signal that legislators are willing to consider more wide spread decoupling legislation in future. The Miami Herald continues:

The Magic City decision is rooted in a 1980 Florida law that allows pari-mutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that have the lowest betting handle for two consecutive years to convert to summer jai-alai permits. But if those pari-mutuels do not seek conversion, other facilities can seek the permits. The Miami dog track’s lawyer, John Lockwood, first sought the summer jai-alai permit for Magic City in 2011.

After much legal wrangling, the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering denied the track’s request to do away with dog races, launch jai-alai games and keep lucrative slots that the track began operating after voters signed off on the machines in 2004. But the 3rd District Court of Appeal ordered gambling regulators to reconsider the issue.

In a declaratory statement issued Wednesday, state regulators said Florida law gives the track the green light to do away with dog races, as long as the jai-alai matches take place at the same facility where the current greyhound permit is operated.

 The agency’s decision won’t have broad implications but comes as lawmakers consider a push by gambling operators who want to do away with live dog and horse racing while holding onto slots or card rooms.

“It’s pretty clear that the department intends for this to not have any far-reaching effects, but once again, John Lockwood has masterfully used a unique set of circumstances to create a positive outcome for his client,” Scott Ross, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation who is now a lobbyist representing other gambling operators, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Hopefully this was just legal maneuvering and the skill of a lobbyist with connections, but its best to make your opinion known to local representatives.

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Florida Greyhound Industry Under fire as Gambling Interests Attempt to Leverage Poor Treatment of Dogs as a Means to Expand Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issues facing Florida’s greyhound industry. The treatment of the dogs has certainly been concerning and has lead to many calling for an end of such an old and problematic form of gambling. Most legislators have focused on legislation that will protect the dogs. Most recently, several State Representatives pushed forth legislation to prevent doping of the dogs. Florida Politics reports: 

Decrying that racing dog owners are “doping greyhounds,” state Rep. *Carlos Guillermo Smith* joined state Rep. *Alexandra Miller* and*Dana Young* Friday in another effort to tighten regulation of dog racing in Florida, with a bill explicitly banning the use of steroids. The trio asserted that female racing greyhounds are routinely given injections of anabolic steroids, or testosterone, to prevent the loss of race days and push their bodies beyond natural limits. “We know they are using steroids,” Smith said. “They are doping greyhounds. It’s inhumane.”

 While these efforts are clearly aimed at protecting the animals, such efforts are vastly different from those that claim dog racing and gambling should simply be separated, an act knows as de-coupling, leaving mini casino’s in their place. Those that seek regulation of the dogs in such a straightforward manor, often call for the end of dog racing and the gambling that keeps it in existence. However, those that seek to continue the gambling simply try to exploit the issues facing the dogs & decreased attendance and instead of concluding that the entire industry should cease to exist, they say its reason for de-coupling. Paul Seago, the executive of No Casinos, provides the analysis in an op-ed written for the Herald-Tribune:

Since horse and greyhound racing and jai alai were legalized in Florida in the 1930s, pari-mutuel owners have engaged in an almost ceaseless yearly pilgrimage to the state capitol to beg, cajole and lobby for more and more gambling with the same mantra, “give us more gambling so we can compete …;” Over the years, the Florida Legislature has given pari-mutuels simulcast wagering, poker rooms, higher poker-hand limits, and no-limit poker over the years without a vote of Floridians and without competitive bids… It is a phenomenon we call “gambling creep” (and is the subject of a video we have posted on our website at www.NoCasinos.org

Now, pari-mutuels have their sights set on slot machines, essentially making each one a casino. Recall that Florida voters rejected the idea of turning every pari-mutuel in the state into a casino in 1994 by a 2-to-1 ratio. That didn’t stop the pari-mutuels from continuing to ask lawmakers for more gambling, finally receiving card rooms in 1996. At first their arguments were that people loved racing and jai alai but needed new forms of gambling to enhance prize purses so they could continue to offer their races and live performances. Now they argue no one wants to watch racing and live jai alai so they need more gambling to continue to exist and they no longer want to offer races and live events. We take exception to pari-mutuel owners feeling that their license gives them a birthright to whatever forms of gambling become fashionable over time.

If pari-mutuels no longer wish to do the only thing the Florida Constitution authorizes them to do, they should turn in their licenses and find another purpose for their land. Instead, the Legislature has given each of these license-holders the idea that their permit is a Willy Wonka-style “golden ticket” that will one day transform their ancient track or fronton into a Las Vegas-style casino. That is not following the free market, or the wishes of Florida voters. It’s giving into crony capitalists looking for another round of corporate welfare.

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Florida Greyhound Deaths Continue to Place Black Mark on Gambling Racing Industry

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many issues the dog racing industry faces in Florida. Its an industry on the verge of collapse and the treatment of the animals has been more than a sore spot. After a series of reports surfaced outlining the death of dogs and other mismanagement, the industry came under fire and the hope was the pressure would improve the situation. After the Greyhound Protection Act passed in Seminole County, the rule requiring reporting of injuries and other industry regulations has been pushed as a statewide measure through an Initiative Petition. Florida already requires the reporting of deaths of dogs, and those numbers continue to climb despite the widespread negative press the industry is receiving. An online source reports: 

A racing greyhound named F.F. Maverick had just sprinted out of the starting gate at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and was about to make the first turn when the 2-year-old dog bumped into two other greyhounds. Video posted on the racing website raceinfo.com on September 28th shows F.F. Maverick tumble on the sandy surface and roll several times before disappearing off the track. A track veterinarian later determined F.F. Maverick “suffered a severe neck injury” that was “catastrophic and not repairable,” according to a state investigative report. The greyhound, believed to be less than 2 years old, was euthanized as a result of the racing injury, records show. “It is a particularly violent death.

There’s no doubt Maverick suffered greatly before he died,” said Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA. “It’s a terrible case. But it is one of many.”

Theil’s organization, which is pushing to end dog racing, has been compiling information about greyhound deaths since Florida lawmakers began requiring race tracks to report fatalities on their property more than three years ago.

Since May 2013, at least 360 greyhounds have died at Florida tracks, state reports compiled by GREY2K indicate, an average of one death every three or four days. At least 52 of those were reported at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, where F.F. Maverick suffered the fatal injury. Only one other Florida track, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, reported more deaths with 54. “That is absolutely unacceptable,” said Theil. “It’s something the track should be held to account for, and it’s something the local community should be very concerned about.” 

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Local Florida Initiative Petition Concerning Treatment of Greyhounds will make Upcoming Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the struggling greyhound tracks in Florida. The racing industry mainly stays in business to allow their facilities to operate slot machines, where their real profits stem. There have been numerous reports of ill treatment of the dogs and it’s the industry has been actively attempting to pass legislation that allows for gambling at their facilities without actually requiring dog races, a process referred to as decoupling. Decoupling efforts haven’t been successful so far, so the greyhound races are still a necessity. Given the issues with the treatment of the animals, a group has done the work to put together an initiative petition to require additional safeguards of the dogs. The Orlando Sentinel reports: 

Greyhound racing gets a full vetting today by Seminole County commissioners. At a public hearing in Sanford, commissioners will focus on the racing and the county powers over it.

Animal-welfare advocates grabbed the county’s attention last month when they plopped down a petition with enough signatures for a Nov. 8 ballot referendum. Their Greyhound Protection Act would ask Seminole County voters if the dog-track owner should be required to disclose greyhound injuries and the race dogs be licensed by the county. It also would require the kennel club to report on what happens to the dogs after their racing careers are over.

With the Seminole backdrop, as WFTV reported earlier this year, “Nationally, and across Florida, greyhound racing is not nearly as popular as it once was. … At … tracks across the state, the dogs run so the tracks can keep their gambling licenses for simulcast and poker.” 

In an op-ed piece ran by the Orlando Sentinel, one of the individuals who helped gather signature for the petition outline the issues facing the dogs and what the ballot initiative strives to protect them from:

I cannot describe the sense of achievement we both felt when our all-volunteer campaign announced it had collected 14,000 signatures, more than enough to advance to the November ballot. It’s important, because there are serious animal-welfare problems at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, as revealed through Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records and industry documents.

In my opinion, Sanford Orlando Kennel Club is a low-end track where dogs go when they cannot compete elsewhere. It uses roughly 700 greyhounds, and these dogs race every five days on average. The rest of the time, greyhounds endure lives of confinement, kept in a warehouse-style kennel compound, in stacked metal cages, for up to 23 hours per day.

According to state records, 28 greyhounds have died at the track since May 2013. For example, on April 20, a 2-year-old dog named Queen Jewel died after she fell and suffered an open fracture. Young dogs like Queen Jewel are dying needlessly for a gambling enterprise that is failing economically. Betting peaked at Sanford Orlando in 1988, and since then has dropped by 69 percent.

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Dangerous Decoupling Efforts fail to Advance as Seminole Gambling Compact Dies during this years Florida Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renew the long standing Seminole Gambling Compact that offers various exclusive rights to the Seminole Indians in exchange for specific payments to the state. That compact expired and a new compact was negotiated between Florida Gov. Scott and the Seminole Tribe. Unfortunately, the compact was not a simple extension of the existing agreement, but instead represented massive gambling expansion. One of the biggest areas of expanded gambling represented in this legislation was a decoupling effort. Many reports have outlined the dangers of decoupling but the Compact and any new gambling expansion efforts added into that compact needs to be ratified by the Florida Legislature. Luckily for those working hard to protect Florida’s families from the dangers of expanded gambling, these expansion efforts will not pass in the current legislative session. An online source explains:

You won’t see craps or roulette in Florida casinos for at least another year after state lawmakers were unable to pass gaming legislation during the 2016 session, which ends on Friday.

[T]he legislature still had to sign off on the agreement, or at least pass alternative legislation for the Seminoles and Scott to consider. Instead, they allowed the deal between Scott and the tribe to die.

The original Seminole Compact represented a balance in allowing some gambling, while still limiting the overall impact to Florida families through exclusivity agreements. Had the compact been a simple extension, the compact might have been passed. However, too many special interests tried to use the compact as a way to expand gambling all over the state. Not only has this approach been showed to go against the will of voters in Florida, but its also the approach that prevented any sensible regulation from passing.   Florida Politics Online explains:

*Barry Richard*, who represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida,**blamed the apparent Tuesday morning collapse of the 2016 gambling bills on lawmakers bending over backward to appease the state’s dog and horse racing concerns [decoupling].

Meantime, legislators added language allowing, among many other things, slot machines in five new counties — Brevard, Gadsden, Lee, Palm Beach and Washington — and permitting a form of poker known as “designated player games” at all pari-mutuels, something state gambling regulators now say is illegal. Provisions like those turned the deal on its head, Richard said.

These gambling expansion issues may not be moving forward in this legislative session, but a special session can still be called and the compact could be debated again. Stay informed on the ongoing dangers of these gambling expansion issues and be vigilant in letting your elected representatives know that you stand with Florida families by limiting gambling expansion in the state.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp speaks out against new Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of the Florida dog racing industry to keep slot machines even though the dog racing industry is clearly failing. As it stands, Greyhound tracks can only offer some gambling games if they are engaged in actual dog racing. The industry knows that dog racing is not longer garnering the business to stay open, but if they close the doors on the dog racing, they are no longer allowed to run the more lucrative gambling side games. Clearly, if greyhound tracks cant profit from races any longer, they should close their doors and hand in their licenses. Unfortunately, track owners feel the need to run at a loss on the trackside, so they can make money from side gambling. Efforts have been made many times to remove the requirement to hold dog or horse racing in order to  keep the gambling games going, an act known as decoupling. Many sources have come forward to explain all the harmful effects from decoupling, and those efforts have succeeded at preventing it. However, the new Seminole Compact debate has opened the door to decoupling this legislative session. Allowing such decoupling will essentially create mini-casinos state wide, and it’s a level of gambling expansion that clearly goes against the will of the people. Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp took an in depth look at the issue and excerpts are provided below. His complete article can be found HERE

When the current state constitution was approved in 1968 the only approved gambling involved pari-mutuels: dog tracks, horse tracks and jai alai. They had been in operation for decades and considered sporting events you could bet on.

Since the constitution was passed, the voters of Florida have rejected amendments to allow casino gambling three times: in 1978, 1986 and 1994.

When the constitution revision was approved by voters it was never contemplated that racetracks would be converted to casinos. However, that’s what the gambling proposal now moving in the Legislature would do.

The proposal ignores the will of the people of Florida – it ignores history – and it furthers the false argument that pari-mutuels should be able to compete with Seminole Tribe casinos.  Race tracks are not in competition with Seminole casinos any more than the Miami Dolphins or Tampa Bay Bucs are in competition with casinos.

They are very different forms of entertainment.

Track owners argue that they shouldn’t be forced to have dog and horse races at their tracks. Yet that’s precisely what they‘re licensed to do!

The pari-mutuel industry doesn’t operate in the free market: It’s a regulated industry. The tracks have been given the exclusive privilege to operate their tracks for decades. They have been given regional monopolies shielded from competition and have received millions of dollars in tax credits while making billions of dollars in profits.

If they don’t want to have races then they should turn in their licenses.

The Legislature now proposes letting tracks replace racing with slot machines: converting tracks to casinos. That would be the largest expansion of gambling in the history of Florida, all done without the approval of Florida residents through a statewide election.

It’s a clear violation of the Florida Constitution. 

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