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Poll: Floridians oppose converting dog tracks into casinos

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A Mason-Dixon poll publicized by the Florida Greyhound Association finds that nearly seven out of 10 Floridians are opposed to turning increasingly out-of-fashion dog racing tracks into casinos — at least without a referendum.

“Floridians are sending a loud message to the Legislature; don’t turn greyhound tracks into casinos on your own,” said Jim Blanchard, president of the greyhound welfare group. “So-called ‘decoupling’ would not only subvert the will of voters who have repeatedly rejected casino gaming but would also cost 3,000 Florida families their jobs.”

Legislation on that issue is being pursued by Democratic state Sen. Chris Smith and state Rep. Kevin Rader.

Heavily involved in greyhound issues is also state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, who passed a bill earlier this month to strengthen state injury reporting standards, an area where Florida lags behind. The new poll also found that an even greater majority of Floridians  — 77 percent — support such action.

“This legislation is a common sense approach to improving at-track safety conditions for greyhound dogs,” said Smith, a former Senate minorty leader. “I strongly support collecting greyhound injury data, but track improvements are necessary to reduce the number of injuries or deaths that occur at racing facilities.”

According to the Florida Greyhound Association, three out of four greyhound deaths in January were due to track-related injuries. As of today, reporting to the state on such incidents is voluntary.

Both Smith and Rader’s bills are awaiting consideration in their first of three respective committee stops.

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