Democratic state Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr. has created the Senate vehicle for efforts to create a compensation fund for people who will lose their jobs and businesses when Florida’s greyhound racing tracks shut down at the end of next year.
Thurston’s Senate Bills 1314 and 1316, filed Friday, are companions to legislation filed in late November by Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee, of Cutler Bay.
Voters approved Florida Constitution Amendment 13 in 2018. It will outlaw dog racing and betting starting in 2021.
SB 1314 and 1316 and McGhee’s House Bills 803 and 805) would establish a trust fund within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering, and have tracks still operating, card rooms, and slot machine rooms pay taxes into the fund.
The bills also call for development of criteria and standards to then pay compensation to people losing money when the greyhound racing is to cease, by the end of next year. The betting regulatory agency would select a statewide organization to distribute the fund and provide the state with an annual expenditure report.
Due process requires that racing dog owners be compensated, the Florida Greyhound Association contends. But there is no clear position among state leaders to assume that claim.
The bills do however, plus more.
“Thousands of people who work in the greyhound racing industry will lose their jobs; and Racing greyhound owners and kennel owners will lose millions of dollars in property value; and It is appropriate and necessary to establish a fund to compensate such persons by redirecting revenue generated by the pari-mutuel industry,” SB 1316 declares.
Unless terminated sooner, the trust fund would continue into 2024.
After 69 percent of voters approved Amendment 13, greyhound racetracks began closing across the state. Five of the state’s 11 tracks either closed or did not reopen for a new season, National Greyhound Association executive director Jim Gartland earlier this month.
In August, a St. Petersburg kennel owner sued the state for damages for devaluing his greyhounds. Others filed a suit last month.
Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked a state judge to dismiss the case because voters passed the ban.
Renzo Downey of the Florida Politics staff contributed to this report.