State Politics

Dog tracks: Gambling deal won’t help us

SARASOTA — The general manager of the Sarasota Kennel Club said Wednesday that a new, billion-dollar gambling agreement announced Tuesday would not help his business, complaining, “We feel we’re getting shut out from a competitive edge.”

“I don’t see anything good out of it for us,” said Jack Collins Jr., vice president/general manager of the kennel club, commenting on a $1 billion, five-year gambling compact reached last week by state negotiators and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“My feeling is in five years, a lot of people in the parimutuel industry won’t be around,” said Collins of the venerable business, which has been a fixture in the area for decades.

Part of the agreement was meant especially to help the tribe’s competitors — including the kennel club and other parimutuel businesses across the state, officials said Tuesday in announcing terms of the pact, which still must win legislative ratification in order to go into effect.

Collins’ view was shared by Vera Filipelli, track director of media relations for Derby Lane, a dog track in St. Petersburg.

“It’s written as if it’s something that will help us,” she said of the gambling compact. “There’s no consideration for any of the thousands of employees that work at these facilities — we’ll be unemployed.”

State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who helped negotiate the agreement, defended its provisions when told of the complaints about it late Wednesday.

“Overall, for all the parimutuels, this is a significant improvement from the status quo,” he said.

“The tribe is not going to operate any more games than it was before the agreement in the Tampa Bay area, so the situation the kennel was facing as far as games being operated by the tribe before this compact has not changed, he said.

“What has changed is that the tribe’s facility will be regulated at a higher standard with more state involvement, which helps the Sarasota Kennel Club be more competitive from a regulatory standpoint.

“The future for the Sarasota Kennel Club is now predictable in that the state has clear authority at the end of five years to discontinue the card games in Tampa — or before, if we so choose — or even to authorize games at other places,” Galvano said.

Collins considered such provisions inadequate, he said.

He cited as an example a provision that would lower the tax rate for horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

“Under the law, they’ll reduce their tax rate from 50 percent to 35 percent — they say to give them a fair shake at competing with the Indians,” Collins said.

“But the way we’re looking at it is: What are you giving Sarasota, St. Pete and Tampa, who also have to compete, and are getting no options to compete?”

The Miami Herald/ St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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