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State of the Racing Greyhound Industry

The contents below were taken in part from the report published by Gary Guccione of the National Greyhound Council and American Greyhound Council at the 25th Annual International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium held in January 2009.

According to Mr. Guccione, the events of 2008 in the greyhound racing industry were usually not for the betterment of the industry. There had been a steady downsizing and overall somberness in the sport.

greyhound racing

However, some developments gave a slight cause for optimism. The most encouraging was the passage in 2007 of a racino/slots bill that would permit the installation of slot machines in Kansasís racetracks. The National Greyhound Association (the sportís official registry) and the Greyhound Hall of Fame are headquartered in Kansas-the cradle of the greyhound racing industry in the United States. More greyhounds are raised in Kansasís Dickinson County that any other county in the United States. The intent of the bill was to put the racetracks, which have been on the verge of closing, on a more level playing field with their competitor casinos in neighboring states and on Indian reservations within the state and to bring new life into the tracks and the race-breed industries in the state. It was anticipated that three tracks would offer slot-machine gaming. However, the bill required county voter approval and only two had voter approval. Delays prevailed after the bill passed and the struggling racetracks, by September 2008 had no slot machines and ultimately Kansas had no racetracks: developers could no longer make the numbers work. This led to Kansasís owners and breeders of greyhounds to go to out-of-state racetracks.

Rhode Island, Iowa, West Virginia, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama currently offer additional games along with their greyhound racing.

Florida voters approved gaming machines, which should be a boost to the industry and to breeders/owners. Racetracks in other states continue to lobby for legislation that will permit them to expand their gaming operations.

The most concerning news of 2008 was a schedule vote on a referendum that would ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts. This was pushed by Grey2K USA and, if approved, it would go into effect in 2010; ending the states long history, going back to the 1930ís, of greyhound racing.

Also in 2008 St. Petersburg Track discontinued the Derby Lane Million; ending the richest greyhound racing in the world. This was due to a drop in the number of paid entries.

Racetracks that offer other types of gaming are able to supplement their purses with profit from slot and gaming revenue; most others continue to experience declines or stagnation. Younger Americans are not supporting the tracks and prefer casinos.

greyhound racing

The inability of purses to keep pace with expenses has led to a sharp reduction in the number of greyhounds bred; breeding registration dropped 35% from 1992 to 1999. 2004 saw a drop of 10%, 14% in 2005, 10% in 2006 and 7% in 2007. In 1993 nearly 40,000 greyhounds were registered and according to NGA barely 20,000 were registered in 2007.

NGA reports that developments on the greyhound welfare front continue to be encouraging. More than 20,000 greyhounds are being placed into homes as pets, mostly by the more than 300 adoption agencies. This, according to NGA means that 90% of all retired greyhounds are placed either into homes as pets or moved on to become sires or brood matrons. They state that the industry spends more than $2 million annually on the adoption effort and that the American Greyhound Council (a joint effort since 1987 by the NGA and the American Greyhound Track Operators Association) supports all efforts to improve the welfare of the racing greyhound, particularly the adoption movement. The AGC has several projects including the sale of the book-Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound. Five dollars from every sale is used to assist the adoption effort. Another project is an effort to develop a vaccine to combat the outbreaks of kennel cough and secondary infections caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica. They aim at improving the care administered to greyhounds including inspecting puppy farms, supporting educational programs, funding assistance to adoption programs and establishing uniform guidelines for reporting and monitoring racetrack injuries.

Editorís Note: Although National Greyhound Adoption Program does not contest closing statistics from the National Greyhound Association, we certainly contest the statement that 90% of all greyhounds are being adopted. The industry has long talked about spending $2 million annually on greyhound adoption efforts. We would certainly like to see the breakdown of how that money is used to support adoptions. Most rescue programs struggle to raise money on a continuous basis and do not rely on industry funding at all.

When it comes to inspection I would suggest that a greyhound advocate accompany those from the National Greyhound Association in determining kennel conditions. Then you might actually get a true read of the situation.

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