Category Archives: dog racing

Live Greyhound Racing Officially Comes to an End in Florida Virtually Eliminating the Gambling Sport throughout the Country

Casino Watch Focus has reported on Florida’s Amendment 13, which made live dog racing illegal in the state.  There was a transitional period to allow tracks time to transition their business model and find homes for all the greyhounds used in those races.  That time has come and Florida now joins the vast majority of the states that no longer allow greyhound racing.  Florida was such a large player, that the entire industry is seemingly on its way out.  NBC News reports:

The dog racing “mecca” of Florida ran its final greyhound contests Thursday night as the gambling mainstay strides closer to its potential demise across America.

The clock struck midnight when a speedy pooch named Bug Brush crossed the finish line to win the final race at Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach and brought a curtain on the sport in Florida.

A little more than 25 months ago, state voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 13, outlawing greyhound races, starting in 2021, and issuing what could amount to a national death sentence for the century-old U.S. sport.

With the state now out of the greyhound-running business, four tracks in three states — West Virginia, Arkansas and Iowa — are left still chasing rabbits.

When Amendment 13 passed in 2018, Florida had 11 of America’s 17 dog tracks, which were spread out across six states. Earlier this year, tracks in Texas and Alabama went out of business.

“Florida was the mecca (of dog racing), the base, the largest state with the most tracks,” Humane Society Florida Director Kate MacFall told NBC News recently, celebrating her state’s role in the sport’s decline. “Now this industry has withered.”

Those who have been long involved in the battle to end dog racing believe they still have unfinished business and are working to end the gambling practice in the few remaining legal jurisdictions.  NBC News continues:

With Florida’s ban now in place, there are laws on the books in 41 states against the sport, according to Christine Dorchak, co-founder of the anti-racing group GREY2K. Not yet satisfied with the sport’s near-comatose state, Dorchak said her group is pushing for federal legislation against greyhound racing that she insists has bi-partisan support.

Even without the work of animal activists like GREY2K, the Humane Society and the late singer Doris Day, dog racing has been losing at the bottom line with gamblers for years.

It’s believed Arkansas and Iowa could soon be done with the sport. Operators of Southland Casino Racing, in West Memphis, Arkansas, have already said they’ll stop running by Dec. 31 2022. A subsidy to the Iowa greyhound industry sunsets at the end of 2022, which could finish dog racing two years from now in the Hawkeye State. Dog racing’s demise comes as Americans — at least pre-coronavirus — gamble more than ever before.

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As states like Florida end Greyhound Racing, a new Federal Bill has been filed

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing situation in Florida regarding greyhound racing and the most recent ban of live races by Florida voters.  Several states have made similar efforts to end an industry that many view as problematic in the area of animal treatment and rights and unnecessary as a gambling device.  Calls have come for a more uniform, federal solution, and the first step in such a journey is now underway.  As an online source reports:

U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., introduced House Resolution 7826 on July 29. The bill, also called the Greyhound Protection Act, would amend the Wire Act to prohibit gambling on commercial greyhound races. The bill would also prohibit gambling on open-field coursing where greyhounds and sighthounds are judged on their ability to chase down hares.

“Greyhound racing is cruel and must end,” Cardenas said in a statement. “My bill allows for a sensible wind-down of an already-declining industry that will ultimately outlaw greyhound racing. As a longtime animal welfare advocate, I am committed to always speaking up for the voiceless.”

U.S. Rep. Carenas takes the position that the industry is on its way out naturally, so he wants to establish a method for phasing the industry out in a way that is not only advantageous for the animals, but those in the industry as well.  The online source continues:

“Greyhound racing will soon end in the United States, and this bill allows for a managed phase-out of the activity to enable planning to provide homes for the dogs and certainty for the owners, workers, and breeders in the industry,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “Greyhound racing is dying, and it’s best to manage the shutdown of the industry to allow for a soft landing for the people and the animals involved.”

GREY2K noted that greyhound racing is quickly losing the race for relevance in the 21st century. Gulf Greyhound Park, the last greyhound track in Texas, shut down last month. The Birmingham Race Course, Alabama’s last remaining track, closed in April. Southland Casino Racing in Arkansas, a Delaware North-owned property, announced last October that greyhound racing would be phased out by 2022.

In 2018, an amendment to the Florida Constitution was passed ending greyhound racing by the end of 2019, shutting down 11 racetracks in the state. The amendment was notable because Florida was the first state to legalize greyhound racing in 1931. 

“Momentum is building for a national phase out of greyhound racing,” said Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K. “Since the end of the legislative session dog racing has ended in two more states, and West Virginia will soon be the last state to sanction the activity. According to state records, more than 9,000 greyhound injuries have been reported at Mardi Gras and Wheeling since 2008, including 3,254 dogs that suffered broken bones and 420 greyhounds that died. Greyhounds also  endure lives of confinement, and some dogs are trained by being given small animals to tear apart.”

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Court Rules Florida Greyhound Amendment doesn’t Violate 5th Amendment

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to shut down greyhound racing in Florida.  The direct issue of live dog racing was settled with voter support in favor of a constitutional ban on live races in Florida.  The facilities are still allowed to show simulcast races and they can still operate as mini casinos as the amendment didn’t shut down their existing slot machine offerings.  However, even with that much operating ability under the new law, facility owners challenged the law claiming it violated the 5th Amendment by taking away their property.  That case has now been dismissed by the Florida court.  An online source explains:

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s greyhound racing ban on constitutional grounds. Chief US District Judge Mark Walker said in a 55-page ruling this week that the prohibition was a “legitimate exercise in Florida’s police power,” rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the ban represented an illegal “taking of property” without just compensation.

Walker ruled that Florida had used its police powers to prevent “plaintiffs’ property from being used in a particular manner that the State has determined to be contrary to the health, morals, or safety of the community.”

The plaintiffs also argued the amendment had violated their equal protection rights because the State of Florida continued to permit wagering on horse racing. The lawsuit claimed dog racing had been singled out because it was “politically unpopular.” But the judge rejected the equal protection claim because Amendment 13 “does not involve suspect classes such as race, gender, or national origin.”

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Florida seeks dismissal of Greyhound Industry’s lawsuit aimed at Amendment 13

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Florida greyhound landscape and the most recent voter vote to ban greyhound racing. Recently, a lawsuit was filed by the industry claiming the government was taking its property with the new law. This particular angle was likely the only one lawyers though they might have a reasonable chance of winning considering how overwhelming the vote was in favor of banning greyhound racing by the people. The fact that the people voted to stop this form of gambling, is exactly why Florida has asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. An online source explains:

Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have asked a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned greyhound racing in Florida. Members of the greyhound industry alleged in the legal challenge that they were denied due process after voters approved the amendment.

But on Friday, state lawyers asked the federal court to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs “cannot sue the governor or member of his Cabinet over a proper vote taken by the people of Florida.” The court does not have the authority to grant an injunction because “there is in fact no government action to stop,” Moody’s lawyers argued.

In addition, the state argued that gambling on dog racing is a “privilege,” and not a property right, as the plaintiffs maintained. If the court does not dismiss the case, the state asked that it be moved from the Southern District of Florida to Tallahassee.

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Florida Greyhound Ban Amendment Lawsuit filed to Obtain Damages, but does the Lawsuit have Merit?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various development of Florida Amendment 13, which bans greyhound racing in the state. Voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the ban, despite some potential issues with decoupling the gambling from the tracks, an issue known as decoupling. Voters also passed Amendment 3 though, a provision that prevents the legislature from authorizing new forms of gambling without state-wide voter approval. Several tracks have already stopped the live races, but still offer the gambling options they provided prior to the closure. For now, actually expansion of gambling through decoupling hasn’t been addressed, though it seems fairly clear that any expansion of the gambling that was previously allowed, should most certainly require voter approval. Regardless, the Amendment didn’t actually prevent all the gambling at the tracks that many who supported the proposal had hopped or assumed, as the decoupling issue was complicated and most simply wanted to see the live races stop. There is still a lot of gambling and a lot of money being made at various tracks. However, at least one track believes that Amendment 13 took away the value of their facility, and thus they are entitled to compensation. Recently, it was announced that a lawsuit could be filed in an effort to overturn Amendment 13. A lawsuit has now been filed, but this one only seeking compensation. The Orlando Sentinel reports: 

Christopher D’Arcy, owner of D’Arcy Kennel LLC in St. Petersburg, wants a judge to order the state to pay damages for the loss of value of his property, including racing dogs that the lawsuit said could previously be sold for up to $50,000.

Voters in November approved a constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 13, that will shut down Florida’s decades-old greyhound racing industry by a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline.

The lawsuit was announced Monday by the Florida Greyhound Association, an industry group that fought the constitutional amendment, which came after years of calls by animal-rights groups to ban dog racing in the state. The measure easily passed, with support of 69 percent of the voters.

The Florida Greyhound Association went to court last year in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the constitutional amendment off the ballot. The new lawsuit does not try to overturn the amendment but seeks damages under the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. It makes a claim for what is known as “inverse condemnation” and contends that the amendment was a “taking” of property without compensation.

The main question is whether or not this claim has merit. Clearly these tracks can still offer gambling, which in and of itself provides value to the owners. The Orlando Sentinel continues:

Christine Dorchak, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA, disputed the arguments raised in the D’Arcy lawsuit and said the kennel owner is not owed compensation. “No property is taken under Amendment 13, and this humane law simply phases out an industry that is cruel and inhumane,” Dorchak said in a emailed statement. “Unlike the pig farmer who could no longer use his gestation crates at all, the track land and the dogs themselves retain value.” While greyhound tracks face a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline for ending racing, they were able to stop racing at the beginning of this year. In the past, tracks had been required to run races to offer more-lucrative types of gambling, such as card rooms.

However, the issue of whether or not property has actually lost value can be addressed outside of the decoupling purview, and there are those that don’t think the case has any legitimate legs to stand on given the gambling nature of dog racing in general. Florida Politics online reports: 

One of the lead backers of last year’s successful state constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing has told legislative leaders that a lawsuit against the measure is “dubious” and “frivolous.”

Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA Worldwide, which aims to permanently end dog racing, sent a letter Monday to state Rep. *David Santiago*, chair of the House Gaming Control Subcommittee, and state Sen. *Wilton Simpson*, who chairs the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry and Technology, which oversees gambling issues. “We believe this lawsuit is without merit and will be rejected,” Theil wrote. “As you know, no property is taken under Amendment 13, and (it) simply phases out an activity that voters have found to be cruel and inhumane.”

A similar claim was brought in Massachusetts in 20111, he added, resulting in a ruling against a kennel owner. A judge found that the owner “could have no reasonable investment-backed expectations in its greyhound kennel business” because “it operates in the highly-regulated gaming industry.” “Rather than to obstruct adoption efforts and file frivolous lawsuits, the industry would be better served working to ensure there is a successful transition for every track worker and every greyhound,” Theil told the lawmakers.

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Greyhound Industry Seeks to Overturn Florida’s Amendment 13 that Bans Live Races

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to ban dog racing in Florida. Voters passed Amendment 13, which banned live greyhound races. The issue was anything but straight forward, as many voters wanted to eliminate the gambling that goes along with dog racing as well. However, the bill simply decoupled the live racing requirement from the gambling that took place at the tracks. The bill allows gambling on races that are simulcast and leaves open the possibility for existing slot machine gambling to be allowed even though the track doesn’t support live racing. However, Florida voters also passed Amendment 3, which requires voter approval for any expansion of gambling. This would seemingly mean new “tracks” couldn’t go up that are essentially just mini slot machine casinos that offer simulcast dog races. The true decoupling implications and the actual landscape of how slot machine gambling will expand as a result is uncertain until such mini casinos attempt to be built or expanded and all the legal posturing takes place. However, the seemingly clear issue of live dog races being banned in Florida may not be as certain either. It has been announced that a new group has been formed with the goal of legally challenging Amendment 13. Orlando Weekly reports:

Amendment 13, which passed with a 69 percent “yes” vote last year, banned betting on greyhound races in Florida. Now, the head of a pro-greyhound racing group says they’re fighting to bring the so-called sport back.

In a public Facebook post last week, Jennifer Newcome, chairman of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the group’s intention to move forward with challenging the amendment in court.

Newcome said the group plans to file the case in July. The group adds on their website: “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘NO.'”

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With Florida Dog Racing Now Banned by Voters, Will the Legislature Bail out the Industry?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing happenings to end dog racing in Florida. Most recently, and amendment was passed by Florida voters to end dog racing. The amendment doesn’t end all gambling at these facilities, but it does clearly mandate that all live dog racing must come to an end. The racing industry immediately engaged in talks with Florida legislators to determine what bail out package would be offered to offset the expense of the animals and to help facilitate their adoption. Nothing has been truly decided, but legislators were very quick to point out that the amendment itself doesn’t mandate any kind of bail out. Naturally, the industry disagrees and it trying to seek compensation. Florida Politics reports:

One of the main proponents of the state’s recently passed ban on dog racing is telling legislators it’s “not necessary” to pass a bill “implementing” *Amendment 13— and that includes a bailout for the greyhound industry. But an industry lobbyist says it’s absolutely needed — and required. 

To be clear, “we are not opposed to such legislation and, if it is filed, urge you to include funding for greyhound adoption,” said *Carey M. Theil*, executive director of *GREY2K USA Worldwide, a greyhound protection group.

He penned a letter to House Gaming Control Subcommittee Chairman David Santiago, a Deltona Republican, on Friday. The subcommittee meets Wednesday to receive an update by the “Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering on the implementation of Amendment 13,” according to an online agenda.

“However, such legislation is not necessary by any means,” Theil wrote. “The false perception that an Amendment 13 implementation bill must pass would likely serve only to create a legislative vehicle for other changes in law.”

Shortly after the amendment passed, some breeders and trainers started talking about lawmakers cushioning the blow of the loss of income with a payout. At least one legislative leader quickly tamped down that idea: “Coming and asking for a compensation package is probably a tough row to hoe for them,” Senate President *Bill* *Galvano*, a Bradenton Republican, has said.

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Florida Votes to End Dog Racing – What Comes Next?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the complicated decoupling issue masked as a simple greyhound ban that later officially became known as Amendment 13The amendment needed 60% voter approval to pass and it received 69%. At face, the Amendment will end live dog racing at the end of 2020, but many questions remain. The Amendment also decoupled the gambling requirements at those facilities from the actual live racing.   This means the facilities aren’t shut down completely, but they can offer simulcast races and slot machines and other prior authorized forms of gambling. The Orland Sentinel explains that some tracks will operate as these mini-casino’s, while others will have fewer options:

While all other tracks in Florida also have card rooms to supplement their dog-racing revenue, Sanford Orlando does not, making its future more tentative.

Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.

The questions of how much gambling expansion will also need exploring thanks to the passage of Amendment 3, which will now require voter approval for new gambling. This is a bit of a grey area as it may seem clear that a new simulcast track may not be able to be built without voter approval (a key worry with decoupling as it would be far easier to set up a simulcast location and operate as a mini-casino via decoupling), but expanding the gambling at an existing location may be perfectly permitable. The key example is the number of slot machines. The Sun Sentinel explains how existing tracks could simply drastically increase their numbers as the amount allowed is already established: 

Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space. In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons. 

There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business andProfessional Regulation gave it permission to convert to ajai-alai fronton.

The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has plans to expand by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.

The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit. 

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Who should vote No on Florida Amendment 13? Those who oppose radical expansion of gambling and Those who want to join over 90 Dog Adoptions Agencies because they believe it hurts the best interest of Greyhounds

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the dangerously deceptive Greyhound Amendment and with the election right around the corner, its critically important that voters see through the deception.  Whether you are a dog lover or one looking to curb excessive gambling,  you should vote No on Florida Amendment 13  There are two reasons for a No on 13 vote and they are intertwined. 

The first reason to vote No on 13 is because it will result in a radical expansion of gambling.  As previously noted, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers calls it outright “trickeration,” because the decoupling issue is largely misunderstood by the public at large.  Right now, the only way these tracks can offer slot machines and other forms of gambling is if they operate a full racetrack.  This bill doesn’t simply stop dog racing.  In fact, it doesn’t stop racing at all, as races from other states will still be simulcast to the tracks.  However, the need to house a full track and care for the greyhounds in the proper and well regulated manner the law provides for today will no longer become necessary to have that other gambling.  This effectively means that tracks can operate as freestanding mini casinos and the only requirement is they simulcast races from other states. 

 The reason we don’t see a massive expansion of these mini-casinos now, is because it takes very qualified operators to raise and care for the dogs and maintain the space necessary for such races to physically occur.  Absent the need for an actual track, its infinitely easier for a “greyhound” parlor to start up, because it can simply fill the building with slot machines and provide a few TVs for simulcast dog racing.  It has been claimed that this could lead to the largest expansion of gambling in Florida, and it’s easy to see why.  If you would ordinarily be opposed to gambling expansion, then don’t be deceived.  This bill won’t reduce gambling by stopping dog races as you think.  It will expand gambling in the worst ways.

 The second reason to vote No on 13 is because of the wellbeing of the dogs involved.  At face, the amendment seems to get rid of dog racing as previously discussed, but its clear racing will still happen.  In this scenario however, the amendment will have negative impacts on the dogs.  This is precisely why over 90 dog adoption agencies are voting No on 13.  The following article, Guest Opinion: A No on 13 Vote is a Yes to the Best Interest  of Greyhounds, comes from an avid dog lover and greyhound enthusiast.  It is incredibly informative and explains from a dog lover’s perspective why a voter would want to oppose this amendment:

As one who has adopted two retired racers, I was initially torn when I saw this amendment. A ban on racing sounds like a good thing on the surface to a dog-lover.

Shouldn’t all dogs be spoiled like mine with couches for beds and baskets of chew toys? My first clue that this might not be the case came in my email inbox. I received my usual newsletter from the Greyhound adoption agency that we had used. The email stated their opposition to the amendment.

Quite frankly, I was shocked that this volunteer run organization, who put our family through an extensive adoption process which included thorough home visits, vet background checks, multiple references and intense education, was now explaining how the claims made by the proponents of the deceptive ban and Amendment 13 were unsubstantiated. They, along with 90+ adoption agencies, are in opposition to the amendment and encourage a “NO” vote.

After receiving the email, I went on a quest myself to find out more facts….

She goes on to outline very key points that dog lovers will want to learn, including the fact that there are absolutely no provisions in the amendment for dealing with the 8,000 or more greyhounds that will be displaced when live racing is banned.  Please click on article to get all the information and share as much as possible.

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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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