Greyhound Racing

There is a shift going on currently in the world of greyhound racing.  The people who had been fighting to keep the “sport” no longer want to keep it going.

I have a retired racing greyhound and I got him from a great greyhound rescue group based in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Chicago, so this subject interests me.

Adopted Greyhound

My dog, before adoption.

What’s going on is the greyhound tracks are getting less popular.  In fact, they are hemorrhaging money when it comes to how much it costs to put on races versus how much money the tracks make from the betting.  But they are still up and running – how can that be?

Gambling that makes money is “fast action” gambling.  Greyhound racing had been popular because you could run three to four races in the same amount of time you could run a single horse race.  The states who issue gaming licenses like greyhound racing because it takes a pretty large staff to make one run.  The prospect of added jobs in the area is usually good enough to keep the “gambling is bad” groups ignored when they are trying to get re-elected.  There is a reason why greyhound racing was popular.

But greyhound tracks can’t compete with slot machines where one person can have two machines going at the same time.  They can’t compete with online poker – where you can play two, three, four, or more tables and hands at once.   I used to play online poker on a free website and one table wasn’t exciting enough, so I tried two tables, then three tables and I went from winning a good amount of the time to rarely winning.  With the internet, lots of people suddenly had a new way to gamble that is a lot faster action than greyhound racing.  The race track owners knew this and asked their state governments to be allowed to install slot machines and some casino table games on the premises.  If they could not get this permission, they would have to close and all those jobs would have to be lost.  Many states started allowing slot machines and casino table games to be installed at greyhound racetracks, with guidelines stating that the dog races had to keep going.

If the racetracks had asked for permission to stop the dog racing and change to casino gambling, it would not have been granted.  But now they are asking to do just that.  Many greyhound tracks with slot machines and casino games are losing millions of dollars every year, but deal with it because they make more money from the slot machines and other games they are allowed to run.  There is a point where almost nobody will be gambling on greyhound races, and we’re almost there.  State governments are going to need to reevaluate this situation.

They may decide to let the dog tracks close racing operations and keep slot machines and table games.  This would remove jobs and allow gambling – not a politically prudent position.  However, it would bring in more taxes to the state government.  Since the tracks are reporting a loss from racing and profit from casino games, they will have higher taxable earnings without the racing.

They may decide to stay the same, forcing the tracks to show races 6 days a week for tiny crowds.  This is a humane issue – why are dogs running, getting injured, and possibly being mistreated if it’s all just a show?  It stands to reason that if the races don’t matter any more and the prizes are reduced due to low betting, less care could be put into the dogs by their trainers.

The state governments can force the race tracks to close both their racing and the casino operations by outlawing dog races (or all animal racing) without allowing those establishments a full casino license.  The downside of this is fewer jobs and less tax revenue.

From what I can tell (number of tracks in parentheses), Alabama (2), Arizona (1), Arkansas (1), and  Texas (1)  do not allow slot machines or casino games along with the racetracks.  Florida (13), Iowa (2), and West Virginia (2) race tracks are supported with casino gaming.  All the racetracks appear to allow simulcast betting for other dog and horse tracks around the country/world.

I have mixed feelings on the issue.  I absolutely believe if these dog races are taking place just so a casino inside can be allowed to run, that is inhumane and should be stopped.  In the state governments’ eyes, the races are taking place so people can have jobs.  But what’s the difference if these race tracks/casinos were forced to hold free Las Vegas-style stage and theater productions?  There would still be lots of people employed, the public may enjoy the production better than a dog race (where we know only so many people come to watch races), and there would be no animals getting injured or mistreated.

I also wonder about the dogs.  I feel selfish because retired racing dogs are great pets – a purebred dog for low cost ($225 through Greyhounds Only) with excellent health and temperament.  If racing goes away in this country – or even shrinks down to the sustainable level for the “sport,” then breeders would have to carry on the breed.  I don’t know if I could justify not adopting a dog, and then an adopted dog would almost certainly not be a greyhound.

Retired Greyhounds

Here is the article by the New York Times that covers most of this information, but falls short in some areas.


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