Casino vice president criticizes dog race mandates
The head the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort's parent company is speaking out against a state law requiring casinos to host greyhound racing if they want to offer other forms of gambling.
A Florida state law, that is.
Dan Adkins, vice president of Hartman & Tyner, the Michigan-based company that owns the Mardi Gras casinos in West Virginia and Florida, co-authored an op-ed in the Sunshine State News this week with Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States.
He said it was time for the state to cut loose its support of greyhound racing.
"The sport of queens, once Florida's highest revenue-generating form of gambling, is on life support, and more than ever a danger to the health and safety of its subjects, the greyhounds," Adkins wrote in the piece.
Like West Virginia, Florida law requires casinos operate live racing in order to offer other legalized gaming products.
Adkins said it was time to repeal that law and let the casinos to stand on their own, not just because greyhound racing is bad for the animals, but because interest in it is at an all-time low.
"We should not be forcing businesses to continue a practice that is unsustainable and not of interest to its patrons, and we should not be placing dogs in harm's way," Adkins said.
He said the mandate was a bad policy and comes with a high price for greyhounds.
"When wagering dollars drop, so does the revenue paid to the kennel operators who provide care for the dogs. Lower revenue means there's less in the way of money to care for the dogs since the operators must cut overhead."
He cited a Florida case where a man was convicted of animal cruelty after 33 greyhounds were found dead from starvation and dehydration in 2010.
In another case, a kennel operator was charged with forging vaccination records -- "an obvious cost-saving measure," he said -- which put hundreds of greyhounds in danger.
"Let this case be a wake-up call to the Legislature," Adkins said. "As wagering and revenue continue to fall, the risk to the greyhounds increases. We expect problems that we have already seen to recur."
He said Florida residents had submitted more than 1,300 comments to the Senate Gaming Committee in favor of decoupling gambling and racing. Only 75 comments were submitted discussing the negative economic impacts of such a plan.
Adkins said it was clear form that response that Florida lawmakers should make live racing optional for the tracks.
"If an operator chooses to continue live racing, that's their prerogative, provided they can assure sufficient funding going toward proper care of the animals," Adkins said.
He also said that funding should not come from the state or other gaming operators.
"If an operator chooses to continue live racing he should also be required to show that such operation can stand on its own from the revenue generated at that specific track or from revenue generated from selling the simulcast signal to other outlets both inside and outside the state," Adkins said.
While Adkins was vocally advocating a change to the Florida law, he did not respond to a request to comment on whether he supports changing West Virginia law.
Though the gambling and racing landscape is similar in both states, West Virginia has one key political distinction: the governor's mother owns a greyhound breeding operation.
That could quash any push to change things in West Virginia -- for now. Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.