Greyhound tracks in Florida are preparing for business as usual after the Florida legislature did not pass a controversial bill that would have allowed them to stop live racing but continue other gaming businesses, including poker and simulcasts of Thoroughbred races and other pari-mutuel sports.
The state’s Greyhound tracks had sought the proposed change, noting that revenues from their live racing have been declining for more than a decade. Separately, representatives of animal rights groups had lobbied for passage of the bill.
In late April, the House and Senate passed similar bills that would have allowed any of Florida’s 16 Greyhound tracks to stop racing or choose to significantly reduce racing schedules beginning July 1, 2011.
But on May 7, the final day of the annual regular session, leaders of the two houses could not reconcile differences over the amount of tax credits that would have been transferred from Greyhound tracks that halt racing to those that continue racing.
“We ran out of time,” said Dan Adkins, general manager of Mardi Gras Casino Florida in Hallandale Beach. “We expect there will be another effort on this next year.”
That facility was known as Hollywood Greyhound before it added a casino with Las Vegas-style slot machines in 2006. Magic City Casino in Miami, formerly known as Flagler Greyhound, also has a casino with slot machines. None of Florida’s other Greyhound tracks are in counties where casinos are permitted for pari-mutuels.
“It will be difficult for some tracks in smaller markets in the state,” Adkins said. “On the positive side for us, we have a casino. But we are in a market (southeast Florida) with heavy competition.”
Mardi Gras lost money on live racing last year but is profitable in other gaming operations, Adkins said.
Florida has had Greyhound racing since 1931. For several decades the sport often attracted large crowds from a combination of local residents and tourists.
But those numbers have been declining since the 1990s amid the growth of pro team sports and other gaming around Florida. Data from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering show live handle at the state’s Greyhound tracks declined from $196 million in fiscal 2005-2006 to $117 million in fiscal 2009-2010.