This post was originally published in 2015 but is relevant given the current proposed legislation in Florida.
By Eddie Menton
Chairman, Mobile County Racing Commission
Chairman, ARCI Greyhound Racing Committee
I have learned through media reports that a report called “High Stakes Greyhound Racing in the United States” has been circulated from a group called Grey2K USA.
Recipients were told in the very first line of the report: “Greyhound racing is illegal in 39 states.” In fact, live Greyhound racing is illegal in only one state, Idaho (simulcasting of greyhound racing is however legal and conducted as is live horse racing and simulcasting).
Greyhound racing is legal and live racing is conducted in seven (7) states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.
Live racing is legal but not conducted in four (4) states: Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon and Wisconsin, although each conducts simulcasts of greyhound races.
Simulcasts of greyhound races are conducted in an additional ten (10) states: Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
That means 21 states allow wagering on greyhound races. The other 29 do not allow wagering on greyhound racing, but that does not mean one may not conduct greyhound racing without wagering.
Why would wagering not be allowed on greyhounds in certain states? The reasons vary, but most prominently the horse racing industry historically did not want wagering on anything but horse racing; and the proliferation of the casino industry (tribal and non-tribal) in the United States fueled the decline in handle for both greyhound racing and horse racing.
Horse racing states have always opposed any effort to legalize wagering on greyhound racing. It is understandable why when you look at the horse racing (20) states like Kentucky, New York, Maryland, California, Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri and Indiana. Idaho also has horse racing.
That leaves nine (9) states without wagering on greyhound racing or horse racing, either live or simulcast: Vermont, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alaska, Utah and Hawaii.
Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee hold steeplechase racing, in which pari-mutuel wagering is not allowed.
Grey2K proudly leads one to believe that it is responsible for 28 tracks closing since its formation in 2001. It lists Victoryland at Shorter, Alabama, as one of the tracks, which was closed because the state’s attorney general confiscated illegal gambling machines. It also lists Tampa Greyhound Park, which sold its license to cross town rival Derby Lane, which continues to operate today; and it lists Jacksonville Kennel Club, which because of Florida law had to operate three separate licenses in order to hold year-round races. The law was changed and Jacksonville continues to run racing at only one venue year-round.
The truth is 27 tracks that closed are in 12 states and one is in Guam. Of the 12 states, wagering on greyhound racing is allowed in all of them. Live racing is allowed in eight (8) of them: Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Kansas and Oregon. Live racing is not allowed in four (4): Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Colorado, although simulcast wagering on greyhound racing is allowed and conducted.
All but four of the tracks closed for business reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with any action by Grey2K.
Grey2K spearheaded a drive to stop greyhound racing in Massachusetts and was successful in getting voters to approve a referendum disallowing live racing, but leaving simulcast racing legal.
In New Hampshire, the Legislature removed funding for regulating live racing, forcing the two greyhound tracks to cease operations. Simulcasting of greyhound racing and horse racing continues today. Grey2K also worked to end racing in New Hampshire.
In Colorado, live racing ended in 2008 when Mile High Kennel Club ceased its operations, but remains open for simulcast races. In 2014, the Colorado Legislature quietly and insignificantly passed a bill ending live greyhound racing despite the fact that there is no real prospect of live racing being revived.
An Associated Press story on the bills passage read: “A fiscal analysis prepared for lawmakers predicted no impact from the ban because the state has already eliminated greyhound-racing regulators.”
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island took a very heavy hit from tribal casinos, most notably the incredibly successful Foxwoods Casino. Colorado’s tracks suffered a similar fate at the hands of casinos, but also fell victim to the economy in the state and the cost of operations.
While Grey2K leads people to believe that it is responsible for live greyhound racing not being conducted in “39” states, there is little other than Coca-Cola and McDonald’s which have operations in all 50 states.