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Sen. Lee: "Let's just eliminate dog racing"

During Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Gaming meeting, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Bradenton, asked pointed questions of track representatives, and I wondered where he was going with it.

 The meeting resulted in Sen. Eleanor Sobel’s bill requiring Florida to tracks to report injuries to move on – but Sen. Maria Sachs’ amendment to decouple dog racing from casino gambling being pulled. And in the closing comments, we found out what Lee was thinking.

Here’s his talk, which starts out reflecting on the committee’s long look at destination casinos and gambling expansion, all of which bit the dust. He addresses dog racing:

“Well, we’re now down to a minimalist proposition here but I know this isn’t the end of the road.

“I want these folks who have come from out of town here to know, I know you are volunteering to be used, but you folks are just being used.

“These folks don’t care about your animals. They care about their profits. And that’s why these amendments were all voluntary because some of the tracks are making money and some of them aren’t.

“And, as this thing goes forward, the question for this committee if we believe so much in the humane treatment of animals, why don’t we just recognize that this industry is dead? Its day has come and gone.

“Why don’t we just revoke the permits for the dog license that exist in this state, the dog licenses, and reissue permits on a competitive bid basis for some other form of gaming that doesn’t require the inhumane treatment of animals.”

Boy, this could go places. It’s a little too radical to get serious consideration, but he kind of has a point. If we’re going to decouple, just flat-out decouple.

Among those who would oppose it, of course, are the pari-mutuels, who – like everywhere else across the country – moved into the casino business via their history of running horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. Those par-mutuel licenses made them appropriate casino vendors in states’ eyes – they’ve already been vetted – although an argument could be made that casino gambling and pari-mutuels are distant cousins at best.

It also would torpedo the Seminoles’ compact in nine kinds of ways, so the state would lose that revenue.

But I give Sen. Lee credit. At least it’s an original thought. Instead of moving slowly, just rip the Band-Aid off…

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