Battle intensifies over Florida greyhound racing

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A new report from GREY2K USA, an agency lobbying for more regulation of the dog racing industry, has spawned quite a bit of controversy. As we detailed yesterday, GREY2K says that 74 greyhounds died at Florida race tracks from May to December of 2013.

That figure has led to much debate about the tracks, including laws in place that require operators continue putting on greyhound races if they want to keep their doors open for other activities.

In addition to pushing for more regulation, GREY2K's Christine Dorchak highlights a measure called "decoupling," which would allow track owners to cut back the number of races without having to also cut back their hours.

"The dog track owners have their hands tied. They can not let go of dog racing because the state says you have to keep offering live dog racing or your out of business," Dorchak says.

According to Florida law, if the owner of a dog track license wants to offer other services -- like, say, a highly lucrative poker room -- they must also offer at least 90 percent of the dog races they offered before opening the card room. This rule ties the hands of track owners who very well may want to cut back on the races -- not out of a sense of altruism, but because of basic economics.

"Greyhound racing is a losing business both for the track owners and for the greyhound themselves," Dorchak says. She's backed up by a gambling impact study released by state legislature that shows about a 90-percent decline in live handling racing revenues since 1990.

GREY2K officials say track operators are forced to take the loss if they want to continue to operate the profitable sections of their business, i.e. the card rooms.

"Basically, greyhound racing is a loss-leader to other activities occurring at the track," Dorchak says. "This is contrary to the free market principles of this country, and business owners should be able to make their own decisions. That's what decoupling is about."

GREY2K hopes to bring a decoupling bill to a vote in the coming months, but some worry the change might put an end greyhound racing altogether. That's a change that racing fans don't exactly view as a positive.

"I come down here to watch his dogs race, we go with friends who come down," says racing fan Linda Holuba. "It brings money here. I would really be disappointed if they closed it down."

Area visitor Pat McChehey agrees. "We enjoy as snowbird coming here and watching the racing and the dogs ... it's a good industry," he says.

And while organizations like the American Greyhound Council couldn't comment directly on the decoupling issue, they did say in a previous interview that they question all efforts made by GREY2K.

"There's a core audience that really loves the sport and as long as people are enjoying it and the industry is behaving responsibly, as it certainly is, I don't see any real motivation for closing the industry down," says American Greyhound Council's Marsha Kelly.