Voters deciding to end dog racing in Florida wasn’t shocking to Jack Collins Jr., third-generation owner of Sarasota Kennel Club, but it will bring an end to the greyhound racing track that’s been operating continuously for decades.
Collins said that while he hopes guests come out to watch the races that will go on this year, his business can now focus on more profitable events in the poker room.
On Tuesday, Florida voters passed Amendment 13, which bans dog racing and wagering on dogs by 2020, with 69 percent voting for the amendment’s approval.
Those in support of the amendment have said commercial dog racing is inhumane to the dogs. However, racing advocates dispute the claims.
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Supporters, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, celebrated the passing of the amendment.
“We are so grateful to the volunteers, campaign members, coalition partners, contributors and endorsers who came together in support of this historic effort to end the cruelty of greyhound racing,” Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release.
While Collins said he wasn’t shocked that voters approved the amendment, what surprised him was the margin with which it passed.
“I don’t like being mandated out of a business,” Collins said.
“Financially, it probably makes money for us because the dogs weren’t profitable,” Collins said, except for during a couple of months out of the season.
Racing used to be a big money-maker, but not since the lottery came about, he said.
One Eyed Jacks, the poker room at the track, has subsidized paying for the racing. The card room was required under the previous legislature.
Once the ban goes into effect, Collins no longer will need the kennels, track and a large building needed to operate the races.
Greyhound tracks generated $11 million in state revenue in 2017 and provide 3,000 jobs, according to the Florida Greyhound Association.
The Associated Press reported nearly all of the few remaining dog racing tracks in the country are in Florida.
There are fewer than a dozen in the Sunshine State, including Sarasota Kennel Club and Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, according to the American Greyhound Council. Tracks are also listed in six other states, but there are no more than three in each of the other states.
“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” said Jim Gartland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association. “Obviously, we’re very disappointed.”
Gartland said there are now questions about which tracks will close immediately and which ones will continue to race. He’s reaching out to tracks to start determining that, he said.
Racing will return to the Sarasota Kennel Club, 5400 Bradenton Road, on Dec. 14, Collins said, and scheduled events will run as planned. He encouraged residents to come out to the track for the final year of races.
Collins and Sarasota Kennel Club will shift focus to One Eyed Jacks after the season.
Collins said there won’t be much change to the poker room, but after 2020 visitors won’t be able to watch a race between hands.
No one at Derby Lane, which is located at 10490 Gandy Blvd. in St. Petersburg, was available for comment Wednesday.
Gartland said Greyhound owners across the country are in a state of flux and adoption programs have been calling his office, asking what they can do. He said more than 100 Greyhound adoption programs opposed the amendment, but together they will “do everything we can” to ensure the dogs find loving, forever homes.
Sarasota Kennel Club runs its own adoption agency, Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption, Inc., according to Collins.
Racing Dog Retirement Project, described as an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, rehabilitation and adoption of retired racing greyhounds, serves Manatee, Sarasota and other Florida counties, according to its website.
The adoption center, 1801 Verna Road, Myakka City, can be visited by appointment only or during their open house on the second Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m.