EBRO — Ebro Greyhound Park president Stocky Hess quickly admitted Monday he’s been bombarded with questions about the dog track as it prepares to begin its 63rd season of live racing Saturday.
The current legislative session in Tallahassee has been addressing the issue of gambling statewide, and a decision could come as early as Friday on whether Ebro could be granted a license to house slot machines on the premises, as passed by Washington County voters during a referendum in 2012.
Not so fast, Hess warned, noting it has been difficult to go forward with business in relation to when and how it could be affected by government mandate.
“We’re going ahead like nothing is happening,” Hess said Monday. “Even if they (Legislature) do something, it’s not official until I don’t know when.
“If slot machines pass, I assume it would be next year” before they appeared at Ebro, he continued. “The state would have to organize staff to regulate everything. We can’t do anything right now and can’t implement anything or put anything into action.”
The gambling negotiations also has been debating “decoupling,” which would release dog tracks from the obligation of running live pari-mutuel racing in order to operate card rooms or areas equipped for slot machines. That has prompted many of the calls and queries to which Hess alluded.
He was more specific when detailing that eight kennels have contracted to run greyhounds during the 2017 meeting at Ebro, which begins 1:30 p.m. Saturday, for the second straight year coinciding with the running of the Kentucky Derby. The meeting is scheduled to end Labor Day weekend.
Included are 167 racing performances that will be held exclusively during evenings, except for the opening matinee. The track will feature live racing Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings throughout May until sometime in mid-June, Hess said. It then will begin a six-night-per-week schedule that will substitute live racing on Sundays rather than the traditional Monday nights of past seasons.
Ebro also is host to Texas Hold’em, pai gow and three-card poker in its card room and traditionally offers simulcast racing from thoroughbred tracks across the nation as well as other Florida dog tracks.
Should the state Senate and House negotiate an agreement that would expand gambling in many sections of the state, Ebro could well be affected in coming years. Hess has abstained from speculating on that issue for quite some time, however.
“We can talk about it all we want,” Hess said. “But right now we can’t do anything going forward.”