Florida greyhound racing: a historical perspective

Published: Sep. 4, 2018 at 5:51 PM CDT
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The fate of an amendment banning Greyhound racing in Florida is in the hands of the state's seven Supreme Court Justices.

The industry was as controversial a hundred years ago as it is today.

The State Archive’s oldest pictures of dog racing are from 1922, but the sport started a decade before.

In 1927, the State Supreme Court ruled that betting was illegal, but many tracks kept racing anyway.

By 1931, the Legislature voted to legalize and tax greyhound racing.

Then-Governor Doyle Carlton was opposed.

Doyle Jr. says his dad told him about an offer gaming interests thought the Governor couldn’t refuse.

“They said, 'Governor, you know how much your name is worth today?' He said not very much. He said it’s worth a hundred thousand dollars if you’ll sign the racetrack bill. He said, 'Well, if my name's worth that much to you, it ought to be worth that much to me, so I just believe I’ll keep it.' He vetoed the bill," Doyle Jr. said in an interview archived by the Florida Legislative Museum.

Carlton’s veto was overridden by one vote on the last day of the 1931 Legislative Session.

“The racing interests from the East had spent several hundred thousand dollars buying legislative votes," said Doyle Jr.

That hundred thousand dollars offered to the Governor is worth one point six million in today’s dollars.

The tracks say they are losing money on racing dogs, but breeder advocate Jack Cory says no one is losing anything.

“Public Records show that they took in over $200 million last year. Over $80 million of that was from live greyhound racing," said Cory.

Since 1931, more than $73 billion has been bet at Florida tracks.