Support for Florida card rooms grows

Nov 16, 2015 9:50 AM

Should Florida card rooms continue to be tied to live greyhound racing?

It’s a hot topic question in search of an acceptable answer as lawmakers wrestle with competing interests that have been spending a lot of money to influence the shape of commercial gaming’s continuing expansion in Florida.

The debate rages on several levels: Should so-called destination resorts be allowed? Will the Seminole Tribe of Florida be granted an extension of its compact with the state that allowed the tribe to operate games such as blackjack at its seven casinos?

Then there is the issue referred to as “decoupling,” to drop the expenses associated with live dog racing while tracks continue to operate the popular poker rooms.

The latter issue will get attention when the Legislature returns to Tallahassee for the 2016 session.

State Sen. Rob Bradley who chairs the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, is in a position to influence all areas of the gambling issue. He opposes legislation that would allow super resorts beyond those already operated by the Seminoles.

But he has recently suggested in various news stories that he may sponsor legislation to allow decoupling at tracks and jai alai frontons.

The Florida Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville notes that animal rights groups are pushing for decoupling. Advocates of change want to allow poker rooms to operate without the burdensome expenses that go with live racing.

Opponents, particularly the dog breeders and trainers say Florida voters only agreed to allow poker rooms as a supplement to racing. They say dog racing is a dying sport and costs more to regulate than the state gets in tax revenue

The Times Union quotes Bradley,  “We’re basically requiring under the law that an activity occur that many people consider inhumane and nobody really watches anymore. At some point, one has to wonder if this makes sense.”

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].