Florida voters approved Amendment 13, ending the state’s dog racing industry by 2020. The constitutional amendment ends the nation’s largest remaining dog racing market.
Touted as a means to end an industry considered inhumane by many animal activists, the amendment eliminates racing at nearly a dozen greyhound tracks across the state.
Voters approved the measure by a lopsided margin, clearing the 60 percent threshold necessary for any state constitutional amendment.
Proponents, including a coalition of animal advocacy organizations, veterinarians and business leaders celebrated the vote as a way as to end what they considered cruel treatment of the animals. Typically raised specifically to race, Amendment 13 supporters argued the animals were treated as disposable commodities and not living entities.
Much of the opposition to the amendment, not surprisingly, came from the greyhound racing industry. These groups, as well as state and national adoption agencies, dismissed detractors' claims of poor treatment, and instead argued the industry provided the animals more opportunities for better lives than what they would have had without racing.
The amendment will also cost track employees their jobs, opponents argued.
The “yes” vote garnered several million dollars for its campaign, compared to several hundred thousand dollars raised for the “no” vote. Even with the lopsided spending advantage for supporters, polls were skeptical the amendment could meet the 60 percent threshold. Voters countered that projection in a big way.
The amendment will end dog racing in Florida – and could spell the demise of the moribund industry overall.
Florida has 11 of the 17 remaining dog tracks, which means only six will remain by 2020, when the amendment stipulates the industry must cease operations. These tracks bolster each other in part through simulcast racing, meaning the six out-of-state tracks will have significantly less wagering opportunities.
Floridians can still wager on the simulcast races on the other six tracks, but with the in-person industry already hemorrhaging spectators, it’s unlikely these races will have much attendance.
Though it seems a death knell, it will in some ways benefit the tracks overall.
The industry existed in its current form in large part due to an odd clause in state laws. These facilities are allowed to offer lucrative slots and card games only if they conduct dog races, which lose the tracks money. Without the costs and restrictions of dog racing, these facilities will assuredly revamp their more profitable offerings.
Lawmakers had tried unsuccessfully to change the laws for years. The Florida constitutional review committee, a body unlike any other in the 50 states that meets once every 20 years to come up with amendment proposals, saw this issue and created the language to fix it.
The lop comes as the state supported another gambling-related measure.
Florida Amendment 3 received far more attention in advertising and the public. The amendment, portrayed as a way to give voters greater autonomy on voting-related issues, strips the state legislature’s ability to pass any gambling-related bill. All future gambling-related measures will now go to a public referendum.
Supported by anti-gambling groups like Disney, the amendment will effectively end any gambling developments in the state for the immediate future. Any ballot measure would not likely come before the 2020 election, if at all.