Florida Mayor Calls for ‘Decoupling’ of Racetracks and Poker Rooms



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.

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3 Comments

Fred Barton

Mayor Land is correct in saying that the image greyhound racing projects is not a good one for his city. Exploiting innocent living creatures for profit; putting them in situations that can result in suffering, injury and death and then abandoning them when they are no longer making money for their owners is not an image any city would want to be associated with. Time to end barbaric “sport” altogether.

I am a Board member of GREY2K USA Worldwide, an organization that fights to save these marvelous creatures all over the globe. I have fostered and adopted rescued racing greyhounds since 1995. I cannot imagine abandoning any of them when they become injured, old or sick and yet this is routinely what happens to them at operating tracks.

Fred Barton
Board Member
GREY2K USA Worldwide


Bill

Dog racing has been in Fl since 1926 along with Jai-Alai and Thoroughbreds.Between them they brought in enough monies to really put Fl on the map keep property taxes down etc up to 1988, then state brought in the Lottery which I am against as the Pari-Mutuels help more people and are better for the economy.When you think investors put many millions into their pari-mutuels and have to go up against the state as a main competitor,it don’t seem right.Also to keep a grip on Casino’s and their expansion they should continue to have mandatory performances of Dog Racing,Jai-Alai and Thoroughbreds in order to offer Slot and Poker..


Earl Burton

Hello Bill,

Thank you for the back history on dog racing in Florida. I was quite unaware that it had been going on for that long. It does appear that it has fallen on hard times, especially with the doping/drug incidences. Hopefully they can clean that up before they have to shut down the industry.

Thanks for reading,

Earl


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