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Amendment 13: Gambling Over Greyhounds


By Julie Tamerler*

Greyhound Racing in the United States

Greyhound racing has long been a part of American sporting culture; the first greyhound racetrack was built in 1919.[1] Florida was the first state to legalize Greyhound racing and would eventually become the state in which the sport was most popular.[2] At one point “dog racing was rated the sixth most popular sporting activity in the country.”[3] Recently, however, Florida voters passed Amendment 13, effectively abolishing the sport by requiring the phasing out of Greyhound racing by 2020.[4]

Greyhound Racing’s Decline

Animal welfare concerns were a primary factor for Greyhound racing falling out of favor.[5] Racing Greyhounds are often kept in cages for 20 to 23 hours a day.[6] In just 4 months, from January 2018 to April 2018, 15,273 Greyhound deaths were reported nationally.[7]

Although Florida had two-thirds of the country’s active racetracks prior to the passage of Amendment 13, it did not report its Greyhound injury statistics.[8] The increased public awareness of poor conditions for racing Greyhounds arguably impacted its profitability; “[b]etween 2001 and 2015, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing nationwide declined by 73%. This includes gambling on live dog racing and simulcast gambling.”[9] As a result, state tax revenue from Greyhound racing was similarly in decline; “[b]etween 2001 and 2014, state dog race revenue declined by more than 82%, and by the end of this period represented only $13 million nationwide.”[10]

In an effort to prevent the extinction of Greyhound racing, the Florida legislature passed a “coupling law” which allowed Greyhound tracks to operate card rooms and slots on the condition that they held 90% of the dog races that the tracks previously held.[11]

Conscious Coupling

Coupling laws had the effect of making the operation of card rooms and slot machines in Florida interdependent with activities such as Greyhound racing.[12] Florida’s coupling laws provide that “only a pari-mutuel permitholder is permitted to operate a [card room].”[13] Meanwhile, Article X, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution authorizes counties to approve the operation of slot machines within existing pari-mutuel facilities if those facilitates “have conducted live racing or [jai alai] games in that county during each of the last two calendar years before the effective date of this amendment.’”[14] It is important to note that this amendment only requires live racing or jai alai to have taken place previously.[15] As a result, a Greyhound racing facility could freely operate slot machines as long as the facility had raced Greyhounds at least two years prior to the introduction of slot machines.[16] This streamlined gambling expansion had kept Greyhound racing afloat because it was a lucrative revenue stream in the face of declining Greyhound racing profits.[17]

The Effect of Amendment 13

Before the Florida legislature voted on Amendment 13, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that Amendment 13 did not alter Florida’s constitution because Florida’s constitutional provision regarding pari-mutuel licensing was backwards looking, while Amendment 13 was forward looking.[18] Amendment 13 only refers to future dog racing, which does not put it at odds with Florida’s constitutional provision.[19] As a result, the Supreme Court of Florida held that Amendment 13“would not authorize the creation of new slot machine operations in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, or anywhere else: only existing gaming activities would be affected, and only to the extent that certain statutory requirements would be removed.”[20]

Although some track owners are upset at the passage of Amendment 13, others are pleased that they will be able to focus on more lucrative betting opportunities without the requirement of running Greyhounds.[21] Danny Adkins, managing director of Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room stated, “‘I planned to stop racing greyhounds about 15 years ago, but the Legislature wouldn’t let me. . . . It was a money loser.’”[22] Because Greyhound racetracks are effectively “grandfathered into” operating card rooms and slot machines, these track owners will likely expand their gambling operations now that they are not required to run Greyhounds.[23] In the meantime, an estimated 8,000 Greyhounds will need to be adopted due to the passage of Amendment 13.[24]



* Staff Writer, Jeffrey S. Moorad Sports Law Journal, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

[1] See Christine A. Dorchak, The History of Greyhound Racing in the United States, Advocacy for Animals (Sep. 7, 2015), (discussing history of Greyhound racing in United States).

[2] See Arin Greenwood, Legal Quirk Lets Struggling Florida Greyhound Tracks Boost Income with Other Types of Gambling, ABA Journal (Jan. 2018), (explaining coupling and Greyhound racing).

[3] See id.

[4] See George Diaz and Kate Santich, Greyhound Racing Amendment 13 Passes in Florida, Phasing out Sport by 2020, Orlando Sentinel (Nov. 6, 2018), (discussing passage of Amendment 13).

[5] See Mary Ellen Klas, Inside Florida's Racing Industry, Where 74 Greyhounds Died on Track Property in Seven Months Last Year, Tampa Bay Times (Feb. 16, 2014), (discussing mistreatment of track Greyhounds).

[6] See Greyhounds Endure Lives of Confinement, Grey2K USA Worldwide (May 29, 2018), (discussing cage conditions).

[7] See Cruel & Inhumane: Dog Racing in Florida, Grey2K USA Worldwide (Nov. 19, 2018), (discussing inhumane conditions and abuse towards greyhounds).

[8] See id. (noting Florida’s deficiencies in protecting racing Greyhounds).

[9] See id. (explaining decline in Greyhound related gambling).

[10] See id. (remarking on decline in state revenue).

[11] See Dog Racing Is a Dying Industry, Grey2K USA Worldwide, (discussing economic decline of Greyhound racing).

[12] See Greenwood, supra note 2 (explaining coupling and Greyhound racing).

[13] See generally Ryan S. Parker and Ralph A. DeMeo, The Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Ban Greyhound Racing in Florida: The Time Is Now, 92 Florida B.J. 62 (2018) (discussing the issues associated with banning greyhound racing); also see Pari-Mutuel, Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed Mar. 11, 2019) (stating that pari-mutuel betting is type of betting in which money is pooled together and the payoff is made from said pool).

[14] See id. (explaining pari-mutuel requirements); see also Michael J. Mooney, What Happened to Jai Alai?, SBNation (Feb. 28, 2013), (discussing history of jai alai in United States, sport in which individuals bounce ball against wall with curved hand-held mitt at high speeds).

[15] See id. (noting that amendment is backwards looking).

[16] See id.

[17] See Greenwood, supra note 2 (discussing how allowing other types of gambling had propped up the Greyhound racing industry).

[18] See Dep't of State v. Fla. Greyhound Ass'n, 253 So. 3d 513, 523 (Fla. 2018) (“We conclude Amendment 13 would have no effect on any existing provision of the Florida Constitution.”)

[19] See 523 (“Article X, section 23 imposes no continuing requirement for those facilities to conduct dog racing or any other pari-mutuel activity in order to operate slot machines. That requirement is imposed by statute . . . . Similarly, the link between [card room] operations and dog racing is a creature of statute, not the Florida Constitution.  In other words, Article X, section 23 relates only to past dog racing, and Amendment 13 relates only to future dog racing..”) (internal citations omitted). 

[20] See id. (concluding that Amendment 13 would not unintentionally expand gambling within Florida).

[21] See Kate Santich, Some Greyhound Tracks Quit Early, Breeding Slows 2 Months After Racing Ban Passes, Orlando Sentinel (Jan. 30, 2019), (discussing public perception of Amendment 13’s passage).

[22] See id. (discussing the future of Greyhound race tracks).

[23] See Fla. Greyhound Ass'n, 253 So. at 524 (holding that upon Amendment 13 passage, track owners will be able to operate certain types of gambling without running Greyhounds).

[24] See Eman Elshahawy, Greyhound Adoptions to Rise After Florida Passes Amendment 13, WUFT (Nov. 13, 2018), (discussing rise in number of Greyhounds to be adopted).