The TaxWatch Research Blog

The TaxWatch Research Blog is a forum where our research staff can address topics and issues in a short format. Keep an eye on this space during Legislative Session for frequent posts making sense of the activity at the Capitol. 

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Legislature All In On Gambling Discussion

Greyhound racing and other pari-mutuels, as well as the expansion of gambling, have been an issue in the Florida Legislature for decades, and it is still stirring up a great deal of debate after all of these years.

This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax reported SB 840 favorably. The bill is a proposal that would decouple dog and horse racing from slot machine facilities and cardrooms. Poker rooms would remain open even if racetracks stop administering live races. Chairwoman Kelli Stargel stated during debate that while she does not support gambling, she would vote favorably in the subcommittee because such an important topic should be discussed amongst a larger group of people.

Senator Stargel is not the only one who thinks so. If approved by the Constitution Revision Commission, a proposed constitutional amendment could appear on the ballot this November that would let the voters decide if Florida is ready for casino gambling.

There has also been a movement to ban greyhound racing altogether, a tradition in the state of Florida for almost a century. While there are valid concerns regarding steroid usage and overall treatment of the animals, Floridians should consider the rich history and economic impact greyhound racing has had on the sunshine state.

The first greyhound track in Florida was built in 1922 in a town called Hambuggus, now known as Hialeah. While the original track was closed in 1926, pari-mutuels gained popularity and were legalized in 1932 in order to help with the Great Depression.

One of the oldest and most competitive tracks, Palm Beach Kennel Club, contributed $4.8 million in Pari-Mutuel and Poker Room taxes to Palm Beach County and the state of Florida in 2017 alone. In addition, Palm Beach Kennel Club has employed 539 Floridians. When you take into consideration that there is a total of thirteen greyhound tracks in the state of Florida, these numbers add up. In fact, pari-mutuel taxes have brought in approximately $419.4 million statewide in a 20-year period and slot machine taxes have brought in an estimated $1.703 billion in the last ten years.

Chairwoman Stargel is right in saying that there needs to be further discussion on this important topic; however, Floridians should be aware of how this long-time tradition has contributed to the state’s economy. 



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