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Senate to revive bill to end greyhound racing and report injuries

In a rare concession, the Florida Senate Gaming chairman on Thursday acknowledged that it is unlikely lawmakers can reach agreement on a sweeping gaming bill this legislative session but they will pursue a bill to begin the end of greyhound racing in Florida.

The Senate will abandon its gambling rewrite -- unless the governor negotiates a compact with the Seminole Tribe, said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, in an announcement Thursday to the full Senate.

But he said the Senate will convene its gaming committee next week to take up bills by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, that end the requirement that greyhound tracks race dogs and to require injury reporting at greyhound tracks.

“Even if comprehensive reform is not in the cards for this session, we need to keep trying to find a graceful transition away from greyhound racing,'' Richter said. "Industry representatives concede today that it’s a dying sport" and a gaming report commissioned by the House and Senate called the sport "loss leaders." 

As for the compact, House Speaker Will Weatherford said Wednesday "it's getting late,'' to complete an agreement. 

Richter said that, because the governor is in the midst of negotiations with the Seminole Tribe, the Senate should refrain from passing its bill until the compact is completed.

The legislature must ratify any agreement between the state and the Seminoles and, although Richter suggested “we can reasonably expect an agreement soon that may significantly alter revenue sharing and exclusivity provisions,” legislative leaders have conceded it’s getting too late to address a ratification this year.

“If we put the gaming reform cart in front of the Seminole compact horse, we run the risk of getting polices at cross purposes,’’ he said. “The wiser course is to be patient, and to address comprehensive gaming reform in the context of a compact ratification.”

That puts on hold the Senate bill drafted to address the inconsistencies in the state statutes and “clean up the laws related to gambling,’’ he said. The Senate bill also included a provision that authorized the creation of two resort casinos in Miami Dade and Broward counties.

He conceded that the proposal was a tough sell. "Even on our committee, reaching consensus on a 400-page gaming reform bill just is not in the cards,” he said.