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The Sunshine State has no shortage of unofficial nicknames.
Is one the Greyhound Racing State?
Animal-rights supporters and some lawmakers suggested as much during the 2012 legislative session. It cropped up in January, when Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, were garnering support for their proposal to allow dog tracks to stop racing dogs but keep their card rooms and slot machines.
People don’t flock to these tracks for the greyhounds anymore, they said.
"It’s a new Florida, and this is not what we need to be remembered for, as the largest dog-racing state in the country," Sachs said. "We are soon to be No. 3 in the country as the most populous state, and our culture does not look at mandated dog racing anymore."
It’s unlikely greyhound tracks will be able to go dog-free anytime soon. A broader expansion of casino gambling has been sidelined, and Young and Sach’s bills have been idling in committees.
Still, we wanted to know, does Florida really deserve the rep as the nation’s home for parimutuel dog racing?
We consulted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, which lobbied in support of letting tracks keep gambling without dog-racing.
The nickname is deserved and then some, they said. No other state comes close.
"It's always been the largest," said Ann Church, ASPCA lobbyist.
For decades, greyhound racing was viewed as high-end, glamorous entertainment. It’s been in Florida since 1931.
"It was firmly entrenched," Church said. "It was a destination event, going down to Florida and doing that."
Racing enthusiasts say it still appeals.
"There's still a demand and love and excitement for the sport out there," Gary Guccione, executive director of the National Greyhound Association, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011. "I don't know that it's dying. Greyhound racing, in one form or another, has been around for thousands of years."
Today, greyhound racing exists in just seven states, including Florida: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.
None of those states has more than two active tracks.
But Florida? It’s home to a whopping 13 of the nation’s 22 tracks.
Locations are all over the state. There’s Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Mardi Gras near Hollywood, the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room, and Jefferson County Kennel Club in the rural North Florida town of Monticello.
The ASPCA numbers match up with a Florida Senate committee analysis and information from Grey2K USA, a nonprofit organization that campaigns against greyhound racing.
Commercial dog racing is illegal in 38 states, according to the group’s state-by-state comparison of dog-racing laws.
Opponents and supporters can agree on one thing: Sachs’ claim that Florida is the nation’s largest dog-racing state is deserved.
We rate it True.
Phone interview with Ann Church, ASPCA vice president of state affairs, Jan. 19, 2012
Email interviews with Rebecca Goldrick, ASPCA spokeswoman
"Proposal could hasten decline of greyhound racing in Florida, nation," Tampa Bay Times, April 30, 2011
Grey2K USA fact sheet
Grey2K USA state by state fact sheet
Video of greyhound decoupling press conference, News Service of Florida Youtube page, Jan. 17, 2012
"Video: Greyhound Racing Bill Press Conference," The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, Jan. 17, 2012
Senate Regulated Industries Committee analysis of SB 382
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