Tom Lee may file constitutional amendment to ban dog racing

State Sen. Tom Lee, who also sits on the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), has been gauging support for a constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing, sources told Florida Politics on Tuesday.

Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican running for state chief financial officer in 2018, has called some of the state’s dog track owners to “take their temperature,” said one industry lobbyist, who asked not to be named.

“There’s not many people that know about that,” Lee confirmed after a CRC meeting Tuesday. “It’s something that has been on my mind … There’s no question I’m considering it.”

The details still haven’t been sussed out, he added, including whether to make it immediate or phase it in over time. He’s also still weighing what effect it will have on jobs. Commissioners face an Oct. 31 filing deadline.

“It wouldn’t be optional; this isn’t decoupling,” Lee, a former Senate president, said of his proposal. “This would be a mandatory ban for dog racing in Florida, to just prohibit it.”

“Decoupling” is the term for removing provisions in state law requiring dog and horse tracks to run live races if they wish to offer other gambling, such as cardrooms. Under decoupling, tracks could still choose to run dogs.

Lee also said his amendment wouldn’t affect any other gambling now permitted at tracks.

Efforts to remove the live racing requirement have failed in the Legislature in recent years, including this past session, as lawmakers continually fail to pass comprehensive gambling legislation.

Yet another lobbyist said the Lee amendment “is not an (pari-mutuel) industry thing … We didn’t bring this to him.”

That person added, “My guess? It’s a feel-good animal rights issue that probably polls well.”

Some pari-mutuels want decoupling because the audience for dog and horse races – and thus the money bet on them – continues to decline every year. Horse and dog interests say ending live racing will kill their business, many of whom have bred dogs for generations.

But track ownership’s reaction to his proposal has been a “mixed bag,” said another racing industry consultant. “Despite what they tell you, some tracks still make quite a bit of money” from dog racing, the consultant said.

Flagler Dog Track, for instance, reported nearly $4 million in revenue from greyhound races for 2015-16, according to state records. And Palm Beach Kennel Club reported close to $9.3 million in revenue from the “handle,” the total amount wagered at a track in a racing season.

Jack Cory, the lobbyist who represents the Florida Greyhound Association and National Greyhound Association in Florida, said “let it roll” when told of the proposal.

“That would be fine,” Cory said. “That is the only proper way to eliminate live pari-mutuels in this state, and that is what we would be talking about. Of course, that would also create mini-casinos throughout Florida.

“… But again, if (the commission) wants to run that amendment, hey, lock and load,” he added.

The Constitution Revision Commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments it places directly on the 2018 statewide ballot must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to the constitution.

The panel is required to wrap up its work by May 10, 2018. 

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


8 comments

  • Shirley Fisher

    October 17, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Please!Please end this dog racing!!
    I have seen how these dogs live!! I have seen what happens when a broken leg happens there is no need for this IF THESE PEOPLE WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN RACING GET A CAR !

  • alicia

    October 17, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    stop exploiting innocent creatures

  • Debbie

    October 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Didn’t Flagler get the OK to stop greyhound racing and replace it with jai alai ?

  • Fred Barton

    October 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    It would seem, since the Legislature is loath to take on this issue in any meaningful way, a constitutional amendment would be the way to go around them and get directly to the people. It’s too bad it has to take this long because of lack of leadership, but if it results in an end to the unnecessary abandonment injury and death of innocent greyhounds it will have been worth it.

    I am a Board member of GREY2K USA Worldwide, an organization that fights to save these marvelous creatures all over the globe. (you can learn more about us here: http://www.grey2kusa.org.) I have fostered and adopted rescued racing greyhounds since 1995. I cannot imagine abandoning any of them when they become injured, old or sick and yet this is routinely what happens to them at operating tracks.
    Fred Barton
    Board Member
    GREY2K USA Worldwide

    • Leo Stillmock

      October 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      That says it all. We are well aware of your lies.

  • Rocky Balboa

    October 19, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I doubt tom Lee cares about this issue at all. He knows he can get press from it, and that is what he wants as he will be running for State Wide CFO position.

  • Christy

    October 21, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Tom shopping for votes?
    Or is Grey2Liars funding his campaign.
    Sad that people spew all this hate and lies about our greyhounds.

  • Mike

    October 25, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Leave racing alone/ go after the massage pollars that have poped up in swfl the last 3 years/ mayb because the politicians get double happy endings that they can’t get from racing- vote the clowns out

Comments are closed.


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