The state of Florida has become a hotbed for poker. Whether it is tournaments or cash games, the thirst for the game is quenched in the casinos of the Seminole Indians and in approximately 15 card rooms around the state. For these card rooms to exist, however, they have to offer greyhound or horse racing and/or simulcasting for races across the country. But if a mayor in a local enclave has his way, greyhound racing will be ended and those tracks with poker rooms ‘decoupled’ from them.
Orange Park, FL, mayor Scott Land is calling for the action after the local greyhound track was hit with scandal. Bestbet Orange Park, one of the locations for greyhound racing in the Jacksonville area, has seen a trainer that has had 12 dogs under his tutelage test positive for cocaine in their systems. This brings the total number of such cases to 18 in the past four months alone. Even though Bestbet Orange Park (which is how Bestbet Jacksonville, the popular poker room that recently wrapped up the most recent World Poker Tour stop at the Bestbet Bounty Scramble, comes to be) has stated that the dogs are in good health and that “the system worked,” it hasn’t stopped Land for calling for the end of dog racing in the Sunshine State.
Citing the negative publicity regarding greyhound racing (and, in particular, this incident), Land says “it isn’t the image I want for the city.” He has already started talking with city leaders to redevelop the area should racing be closed but, with the current situation regarding the linking of racing and poker in the state, it would affect the economy of the area if both were closed. For some of the business in question, the only reason that there is a schedule of dog racing is for the ability to operate a poker room. Since that isn’t in the interest of the greyhounds’ health or well-being, Land is calling for the ‘decoupling’ of the two industries.
Since 2001, any poker room that has a card room license must have a full racing schedule offered (or offer simulcasting). If the races are offered, then 90% of the schedule must be run for the card room to keep its license. Over the past decade, however, there has been a significant drop in revenues from greyhound or horse racing that happens to coincide with consistently strong revenues from the card rooms.
For the Fiscal Year 2017 (which ended in June), the state of Florida saw gross revenues of $717,556,879 for the racing industry. While this may seem impressive, it is a drop compared to last year’s revenues ($740,622,947) and a drop of approximately 52% since poker started being dealt at the facilities in 2005. Poker room revenues were $156,311,014 at the close of the FY 2017, a 5.8% increase in year-to-year comparison.
Dog racing as a whole has seen a massive decline in the U. S. in the 21st century. Of the 19 tracks that are still in existence, 12 of them are in Florida and each of them has a poker room attached to them. There has been talk previous as to reducing the schedule of the dog tracks yet still allowing for the poker rooms to operate, but those discussions have proven to be fruitless. The state legislature is not likely to be up for another debate regarding gambling in the state, having recently come through a bruising battle with the Seminoles regarding their yearly payments to the state for exclusivity of casino gaming in the state.
With both industries pulling in significant revenues for the state, it isn’t likely that Florida legislators will be looking to put the kibosh on either one. Whether it is the dog racing that draws the poker players or vice versa (or perhaps each is separate?), for now the two industries will remain linked together. Should further malfeasance occur in the dog racing industry, however, that situation could change quickly.