It is no secret that interest in greyhound racing has been rapidly deteriorating. The sport of queens, once Florida's highest revenue-generating form of gambling, is on life support, and more than ever a danger to the health and safety of its subjects, the greyhounds.
Interest in greyhound racing is at an all-time low. Florida law mandates, however, that tracks operate live racing in order to also offer other legalized gaming products. This mandate is bad policy and comes with a high price for greyhounds.
When wagering dollars drop, so does the revenue paid to the kennel operators who provide care for the dogs. Lower revenue means there's less in the way of money to care for the dogs since the operators must cut overhead.
Case in point, the recent violations of a kennel operator who was charged with forging vaccination records - an obvious cost saving measure by the kennel operator. Hundreds of greyhounds were placed in danger due to the act.
Let this case be a wake up call to the Legislature. As wagering and revenue continue to fall, the risk to the greyhounds increases. We expect problems we have already seen to recur.
In 2010, a Washington County man was charged, and later convicted of animal cruelty, after 33 greyhounds were found dead from starvation and dehydration. Several other greyhounds were found near death from starvation in this same case.
The people of Florida spoke up and submitted over 1,300 comments to the Senate Gaming Committee in support of animal welfare and decoupling, while "economic impacts" came in a very distant second place with 75 comments. The people of Florida care about dogs, and they do not want this situation to persist.
The state should address this situation by making the operation of live racing optional for the tracks. If an operator chooses to continue live racing, that's their prerogative, provided they can assure sufficient funding going toward proper care of the animals. In addition, this funding should not come in the form of a subsidy from the state, or worse yet, from other gaming operators. If an operator chooses to continue live racing, he should also be required to show that such operations can stand on their own from the revenue generated at that specific track or from revenue generated from selling the simulcast signal to other outlets both inside and outside of Florida.
The Florida Legislature has been considering comprehensive gambling reform for several years. During this debate, de-coupling live racing from other gambling at racetracks across Florida has become one of the most talked about issues.
Regardless of whether or not the Legislature decides to tackle a comprehensive gaming package this year, de-coupling of live greyhound racing should be a priority for state lawmakers.
We should not be forcing businesses to continue a practice that is unsustainable and not of interest to its patrons, and we should not be placing dogs in harm's way.
Dan Adkins is vice president and COO of Hartman & Tyner, Inc., dba Mardi Gras Casino, and Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun