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Goodbye doggies, hello casinos

Animal lover Rep. Faye Culp admits she doesn't know much about the bill that's coming out of bill drafting under her name except that by allowing dog tracks in Florida to operate without being required to race it could mean "there won't be as many dogs racing." 

"I've visited the racetracks and I know they dogs are treated well and everything, but I just don't ever like it when animals have to live their lives in cages,'' Culp said. She said she was asked to sponsor the bill by Miami Republican David Rivera. Rivera says it was pushed by greyhound racing opponents, Grey2K. The Senate sponsor is Eustis Republican and 2010 candidate for agriculture commissioner, Sen. Carey Baker.

The animal rights community has been working long to end greyhound racing, but the backside to the story is that if the bill get momentum, it could help struggling greyhound race tracks like Flagler Dog Track and Entertainment Center in Miami or Tampa Greyhound Track in Culp's hometown. Flagler is among those struggling. The company reports a drop in profits of 20 percent in four years, a testament to the immense competition now coming from the casinos at Broward County's parimutuels and the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock casino.

Flagler is one of three Miami-Dade parimutuels voters approved allowing to expand to Las Vegas-style slot machines last year. The company is planning to open Magic City Casino with 1,500 slot machines, shopping outlets, restaurants and a concert stage.

The future, many in the greyhound industry acknowledge, is perceived to be more in line with casinos than dogs. But the legislature required the tracks to continue to race dogs at the same rate they always had in order to get the casinos.

Discontinuing dogs is not going to be popular with dog owners and breeders. Jack Cory, lobbyist for the Greyhound Racing Association of Florida told a House committee Thursday that it was a $100 million industry in Florida, and urged the committee to consider giving all dog tracks video lottery terminals to help keep it alive.

Culp knows this much, however. "It's going to be controversial.''