Florida Politician Decries “Decoupling” Plan

The former lieutenant governor of Florida says legislation that would allow the state’s dog racing tracks to put an end to live races but maintain gambling facilities could lead to a massive expansion of gaming. It could also hurt the state’s family friendly image, says Jeff Kottkamp.

Plan “would create 14 mini-casinos”

Former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp has come out foursquare against “decoupling,” a concept that would allow the state’s dog racing tracks to offer gaming without live races. In an article in Florida Today, Kottkamp said if the effort succeeds, it could lead to “the largest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history.”

In reality, wrote Kottkamp, supporters of the plan “want to create 14 mini casinos in Florida, all without voter approval.”

“Those pushing decoupling use two arguments to support their position,” said Kottkamp, a Republican who was lieutenant governor from 2007 to 2011. “First, they say that requiring dog tracks to have dog races violates free-market principles. Let’s be clear—there is nothing free market about gambling. It is a highly regulated industry for a reason.”

In his op-ed piece, Kottkamp said the tracks simply want to eliminate the less profitable sport of dog racing in order to expand gaming. He echoed the argument of conservatives who say the Sunshine State’s image as a family destination could be sullied by too much gaming.

“Those supporting the expansion of gambling through decoupling say Florida already is a gambling state, so what’s the harm in having more gambling? In reality, Florida is a family-friendly state that happens to have some forms of gambling,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, reported Florida Today, the state’s Select Committee on Gaming approved a bill requiring greyhound track operators to report deaths and injuries of racing animals. Senator Maria Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat, withdrew an amendment that would have allowed decoupling of dog racing and operation of card rooms or slot machines at the tracks. Sachs plans to revise the amendment and try again before the end of the legislative session.