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Greyhound group asks state to reverse decoupling decision

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

As promised, the Florida Greyhound Association is asking state gambling regulators to “reconsider” their decision to allow Miami’s Magic City Casino to discontinue live dog racing.

The association filed a “motion to intervene” Tuesday.

Ending racing there “will put (its) members … out of business,” the motion says. “The purpose … is to forever end greyhound racing at the track. Many members are family owned businesses that have raced greyhounds at the race track for generations.”

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, last month approved a request from the Havenick family to drop dog racing at its Miami facility in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The motion, drafted by former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, the association’s general counsel, says the state incorrectly allowed the track and casino to convert its gambling license to a summer jai alai permit, which allows it to stop racing but keep offering lucrative slot machine play.

Usually, pari-mutuels in Florida are required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that make those facilities more money. A move afoot called “decoupling,” removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years, including this past session.

“There appears to be no showing that (Magic City) meets the statutory qualifications to convert their permit to summer jai alai … since (it) is now the only greyhound race track operating in Miami,” it says.

Moreover, “it cannot be said that the Legislature intended to allow for the conversion of a pari-mutuel permit to a summer jai alai permit at a facility that operates slot machines,” the motion adds.

Statewide voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing slots at existing jai-alai frontons and horse and dog racetracks only in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and only if voters there OK’d it in referendums. The caveat was that tracks had to continue racing dogs or horses.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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