by Patrick L. “Booter” Imhof
Amendment 13, the last constitutional amendment on the ballot,1 amends Fla. Const. art. X, by adding a new section. The new section begins by affirming that the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the state of Florida and prohibits, after December 31, 2020, a person authorized to conduct gaming or pari-mutuel operations from racing greyhounds or any member of the canis familiaris, subspecies in connection with any wager for money or any other thing of value in Florida. Persons in Florida would also be prohibited from wagering money or any other thing of value on the outcome of a live dog race occurring in Florida after that date.
The revision also provides that failure to conduct greyhound racing or wagering on greyhound racing after December 31, 2018, is not grounds to revoke or deny renewal of other related gaming licenses held by a person who is a licensed greyhound permitholder on January 1, 2018. It also does not affect the eligibility of the permitholder or the pari-mutuel facility permitholder to conduct pari-mutuel activities authorized by general law. It requires the legislature to specify penalties for violations of this new section and for activities that aid or abet violations of the section. The revision takes effect upon the approval of the electors.
Gambling and Gaming in Florida2
In general, gambling is illegal in Florida.3 However, the following gaming activities are authorized by law and regulated by the state: pari-mutuel wagering4 and licensed greyhound, horse tracks, and jai alai frontons, slot-machine gaming at certain licensed pari-mutuel locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and cardrooms5 at authorized pari-mutuel facilities.6 The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) regulates pari-mutuel wagering, slot machines at the pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and the cardrooms. There is other legalized gaming in Florida not regulated by the department.7 Pari-mutuel wagering is governed by F.S. Ch. 550 (2018).
F.S. §550.054 (2018) provides that any person meeting the qualification requirements of Ch. 550 may apply to the division for a permit to conduct pari-mutuel wagering.
Wagering on greyhound racing is considered pari-mutuel wagering and is authorized by Fla. Const. art. X, §7. There are currently 19 greyhound racing permits8 in Florida9 conducting live racing at 12 greyhound racing tracks10 across the state.11 Under current law, holders of permits to conduct pari-mutuel wagering must conduct a full schedule of live racing before they may conduct other types of gaming, 12 including slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, intertrack wagering,13 simulcast wagering,14 and the operation of cardrooms.15
According to the Florida Greyhound Association, there are approximately 8,000 greyhounds in kennels at the tracks and another 5,000 to 7,000 greyhounds on farms in Florida and out of state.16 Greyhound-related tracks, kennels, and farms employ about 3,000 people in Florida.17
Greyhound Permitholders Revenue and Taxes and Fees
For FY 2016-2017 the total amount of revenue from wagering for the greyhound permitholders was $226,483,515.18 State revenue from greyhound performances from taxes and fees for FY 2016-2017 was $2,233,244.
All 12 operating greyhound permitholders also had cardrooms.19 Greyhound permitholder cardrooms brought in gross receipts of $116,661,271. State revenue from cardroom taxes and fees at greyhound permitholder cardrooms was $12,236,528.20
The two greyhound permitholders21 eligible to conduct slot-machine gaming received a total revenue of $81,322,558 for fiscal year 2016-17 from slot machine gaming. State revenue from that slot machine gaming was $43,789,070.
According to the commission proposal analysis,22 DBPR has estimated the fiscal impact as approximately $1.1 million for FY 2019-2020 and approximately $1.3 million for FY 2020-2021. A portion of this projected loss may be mitigated if patrons of greyhound wagering move to wagering on horse racing or jai alai.
Also, DBPR estimates that beginning in FY 2020-2021, the Department of Education would likely experience a decrease of approximately $400,000 from escheated tickets associated with greyhound racing.
A reduction of about $325,000 to $400,000 may be achieved in costs for state-employed personnel dedicated to licensing and sample collection for drug testing of greyhounds when the prohibition is implemented on December 31, 2020.23
Florida Greyhound Association Challenge
The Florida Greyhound Association and its president filed suit in circuit court in Leon County for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to enjoin the placement of Amendment 13 on the November ballot. The suit alleges the proposed amendment “cannot lawfully be submitted to the voters of Florida because the ballot title and summary language are inaccurate, misleading, and fail to inform voters of the true effect of the proposed amendment.”24 The challenge noted that the proposal only bans wagering on dog racing at gaming or pari-mutuel operations in Florida. It does not prohibit wagering on dog racing out of state or any other authorized gaming at the greyhound permitholders’ facilities, such as cardrooms or slot machine gaming.
On August 1, the circuit court agreed, striking the amendment from the November ballot and stating that the language was “misleading and inaccurate and incomplete.”25 Proponents of the amendment quickly filed an appeal, and, as of this writing, the Florida Supreme Court has accepted jurisdiction.26
1 Florida Department of State, Florida Division of Elections, http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/.
2 The term “gambling” is used in the industry to refer to illegal activities, and “gaming” is used to refer to activities that are authorized by law.
3 See Fla. Stat. §849.08 (2018).
4 Fla. Stat. §550.002(22) (2018) defines “pari-mutuel” as “a system of betting on races or games in which the winners divide the total amount bet, after deducting management expenses and taxes, in proportion to the sums they have wagered individually and with regard to the odds assigned to particular outcomes.”
5 Fla. Stat. §849.086 (2018), governs the operation of cardrooms. Fla. Stat. §849.086(2)(c) (2018), defines “cardroom” to mean “a facility where authorized card games are played for money or anything of value and to which the public is invited to participate in such games and charged a fee for participation by the operator of such facility.”
6 “Pari-mutuel facility” is defined by Fla. Stat. §550.002(23) (2018), as a “racetrack, fronton, or other facility used by a permitholder for the conduct of pari-mutuel wagering.”
7 See Fla. Stat. Ch. 24 (2018); Fla. Stat. §849.085 (2018); Fla. Stat. §849.0931 (2018); Fla. Stat. §849.0935 (2018); Fla. Stat. §849.094 (2018); Fla. Stat. §849.141 (2018); Fla. Stat. §546.10 (2018).
8 Jefferson County Kennel Club’s operating licenses for greyhound racing and cardroom were suspended on October 23, 2014. North American Racing Association in Key West has not been issued an operating license since 1990-91. Nineteen permitholders have operating licenses.
9 Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Current Permitholders. http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pmw/documents/CurrentPermitholdersList.pdf?x40199.
10 Track is also used throughout Ch. 550.
11 Florida Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering, Permitholder Operating Licenses 2017-2018. http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/pari-mutuel-wagering/permitholder-operating-licenses-2017-2018/.
12 See Fla. Stat. §550.002(11) (2018). For a greyhound permitholder, it is a combination of 100 matinee or evening performances during the preceding year. A performance is defined, under Fla. Stat. §550.002(25) (2018), as a series of races performed consecutively under a single admission charge.
13 See Fla. Stat. §§550.615-6308 (2018). “Intertrack wager” is defined by Fla. Stat. §550.002(17) (2018), as “a particular form of pari-mutuel wagering in which wagers are accepted at a permitted, in-state track, fronton, or pari-mutuel facility on a race or game transmitted from and performed live at, or simulcast signal rebroadcast from, another in-state pari-mutuel facility.”
14 Id. “Simulcasting” is defined by Fla. Stat. §550.002(32) (2018) as “broadcasting events occurring live at an in-state location to an out-of-state location or receiving at an in-state location events occurring live at an out-of-state location, by the transmittal, retransmittal, reception, and rebroadcast of television or radio signals by wire, cable, satellite, microwave, or other electrical or electronic means for receiving or rebroadcasting the events.”
15 See Fla. Stat. §849.086 (2018).
16 Interview with Jack Cory, Public Affairs Consultants, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association and the National Greyhound Association for public affairs issues in Florida, June 1, 2018.
19 Jacksonville Kennel Club conducted its live racing at Orange Park Kennel Club and operated a cardroom at a different location. Tampa Greyhound Track conducted its live racing at Derby Lane and operated a cardroom at its location. St. Johns Greyhound Park paid its table fees and received its cardroom license but did not conduct cardroom operations during the fiscal year. See Fla. Stat. §550.475 (2018), which allows permitholders to lease their facilities to a holder of the same class of permit.
20 2016-2017 Annual Report at n. 54.
21 Mardi Gras Gaming and West Flagler Track and Casino.
22 Constitution Revision Commission, Executive Committee Proposal Analysis CS/P 67 (Jan 31, 2018), available at http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0067/Analyses/2017p0067.pre.ex.PDF.
24 Florida Greyhound Association, Inc. and James Blanchard v. Florida Department of State and Ken Detzner, No. 2018-CA-001114 (Fla. 2d Cir. 2018).
25 Florida Greyhound Association, Inc. and James Blanchard v. Dept. of State and Ken Detzner, No. 2018 CA 1114 (Fla. 2d Cir. Aug. 1, 2018).
26 Dept. of State v. Florida Greyhound Association, Inc., No. SC18-1287 (Aug. 7, 2018); Mary Ellen Klas, State Appeals Judge’s Ruling on Greyhound Ban, Leaving Ballot Amendment in Limbo, Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 2, 2018, available at https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/08/02/judge-tosses-greyhound-ban-from-the-ballot-proponents-say-theyll-appeal/.
PATRICK L. “BOOTER” IMHOF is the general counsel for The Florida Bar and was formerly staff director for the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries, which has primary jurisdiction for gaming issues. He was employed by the Florida Legislature for more than 34 years in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He received his B.A. in political science from the University of Florida and his J.D. from South Texas College of Law. He is a former chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee, former chair of the Administrative Law Section, and former chair of the Government Lawyer Section of The Florida Bar.