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Dog Track Poker Flap

Gov. Jeb Bush has until midnight Tuesday to decide whether a bill that would expand poker games at horse and dog tracks around the state should become law. The bill's supporters say the additional card rooms and higher jackpots will bring needed customers to Florida's struggling pari-mutuel facilities. Opponents say it's a business Florida can do without.

A few years ago, Steve Andris averaged 1,100 customers at his dog track on a busy night, now he's lucky to get 300. He's hoping a bill that would expand card rooms at dog and horse tracks will bring Florida's pari-mutuel industry some much-needed business, but the card room bill has generated plenty of controversy.

The statewide group "No Casinos" says a recent study showed Floridians more than twice as likely to develop gambling problems than their counterparts in other states. Gov. Jeb Bush has also heard from angry animal rights activists. They say granting special favors to the racing industry will just lead to more greyhounds being killed at the end of their racing careers.

Adding more card rooms and increasing the jackpot to a $200 limit could bring the state nearly a million new dollars in taxes and fees. Rep. Curtis Richardson voted for the bill even though he's not in favor of expanding gambling.

Track owner Andris says Florida's racing industry will be the big losers if Florida doesn't take a gamble on card rooms, and he doesn't think Florida can afford to lose any more business.

If the governor does not sign or veto the card room bill, it would become law without his signature at midnight. Along with expanding card rooms, the bill increases the award pots for owners of thoroughbred horses.


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