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Gambling Expansion Fears Kill Greyhound Racing 'De-Coupling'

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A plan to put an end to greyhound racing in Florida came unglued in the state Senate Gaming Committee hearing on Tuesday. As the proposal began to look like a substantial expansion of gambling in Florida, sponsor Maria Sachs pulled the plug on her own legislation. 

The plan was to stop forcing dog tracks to schedule greyhound faces as a condition of operating poker rooms and slot machines. Because dog races are no longer popular or profitable, it was assumed they would die out. But as details of the measure emerged during a 90-minute hearing, senators got uncomfortable.

Miami Senator Gwen Margolis and others, including Senator Jack Latvala of Clearwater said it wasn't clear whether the unused racing permits could be transferred to established new casinos with token dog racing. As the tide turned against her measure, Sachs realized she didn't have the votes.Greyhound industry lobbyist Jack Cory said Margolis' fears weren't far from the truth. He said it was likely Broward's Gulfstream Park would take its permit to Miami to partner with the Genting Group on a new casino there.

"The tracks are the most greedy people in the state of Florida and they could not do it alone", said Cory. "They had to expand gambling and everybody wanted a piece of the expansion."

Another feature of the bill would have allowed the newly dogless tracks to offer betting on greyhound races broadcast from other tracks, which committee staff said would constitute a further gambling expansion. The so-called "de-coupling" was an amendment to another greyhound bill that requires reporting of greyhound injuries. That bill passed. And Sachs said she plans to rewrite her de-coupling amendment and reintroduce it with no language that could be used to expand gambling in Florida.