NAPLES, Florida – Florida voters on Tuesday approved Amendment 13, ending live greyhound racing in the state by 2021.
With nearly all votes counted statewide, about 5.3 million voters, or 69 percent, favored the amendment compared to about 2.4 million, or 31 percent, against it.
The constitutional amendment did not address what to do with the upwards of 6,000 soon-to-be retired greyhounds, leaving organizations and local adoption groups to pick up the slack.
“There are groups already mobilizing in other states,” said Kate MacFall, Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “We see this as an incredible opportunity to find homes.”
Animal rights activists, the main supporters of the dog racing amendment, were thrilled with the result. Animal safety concerns drove the amendment to the ballot. Lawmakers wrote in the amendment that the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.”
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“Everything for years has been about gambling and expansion and the dogs were just stuck in the middle,” said Sonia Stratemann, vice chairwoman of Protect Dogs-Yes to 13. “Voters have shown how they feel.”
Greyhound trainers have said the amendment would cause the loss of hundreds of jobs, said Jennifer Newcome, chairman of the Committee to Support Greyhounds.
“Most trainers will have a difficult time,” Newcome said. “A lot are third-generation trainers and have been in the business since they were born. These people did not pursue a college education or (look) for other work.”
Some dog tracks might operate the full two years until the ban takes effect while others could close as early as Jan. 1. If tracks space out closures, adoption centers should be able to handle the dogs, MacFall said.
A normal greyhound racing career is about 2 years, so steady track closures wouldn’t affect the adoption flow as much as a mass track closure at the beginning of the year.
The Humane Society is offering support for placement of the animals, MacFall said.
Newcome said the trainers are looking to the Humane Society and other national organizations for help.
“The people who took care of the dogs just lost everything,” she said. “Now the people who put this on the ballot should share some responsibility (in adoption).”
Poker room problems
Poker rooms that normally accompany dog tracks didn’t escape election night unscathed.
Amendment 3 proposed to give voters “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.”
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Floridians overwhelmingly approved of the change, sealing it in the state constitution. Statewide, about 5,560,000 voters, or 71 percent, favored the amendment compared to about 2,220,000 voters, or 29 percent, against it.
The Legislature previously chose whether new casinos could open and whether dog track or horse track gaming rooms could expand.
The new process forces gaming companies through a lengthy process to expand, including getting hundreds of thousands of petition signatures and getting approval from voters.
The Seminole Tribe spent millions of dollars convincing voters to approve the gambling change. Seminole Tribe casinos are exempt from the amendment changes. Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., also poured millions into backing the amendment.
Smaller poker rooms and dog and horse tracks opposed the amendment, which gives Seminole Tribe casinos a significant advantage in expanding gambling in the state.
The Miami Dolphins told its Twitter followers to vote against the gambling amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court recently opened the door to sports betting, though Florida has not allowed the practice.
Restricting the possibility of new casinos — and any included sports betting — could hurt the team’s possible betting revenue.
Follow Thaddeus Mast on Twitter: @ThaddeusMast
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