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Greyhound racing nearing its end in the U.S. after long slide – The Denver Post

By SCOTT McFETRIDGE

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Vera Rasnake laughed as she led a trio of barking, jostling canines into the Iowa Greyhound Park, however her smile pale when she acknowledged that after 41 years of being across the modern animals, her sport was teetering on extinction.

After the top of a truncated season in Dubuque in Might, the monitor right here will shut. By the top of the yr there’ll solely be two tracks left within the nation.

“It’s very hard for me to see this,” Rasnake mentioned.

It’s been a protracted slide for greyhound racing, which reached its peak within the Eighties when there have been greater than 50 tracks throughout 19 states. Since then, elevated considerations about how the canines are handled together with an explosion of playing choices have almost killed a sport that gained widespread attraction a few century in the past.

A racing affiliation discovered that betting on greyhounds plunged from $3.5 billion in 1991 to about $500 million in 2014. Since then, many extra tracks have closed.

In some states just like the dog-racing mecca of Florida in 2021, it was voter initiatives that ended the game on the state’s dozen tracks. In others like Iowa, state officers allowed casinos to finish subsidies that had stored greyhound racing alive as curiosity declined.

“Do I think the industry is dying? Yes,” mentioned Gwyneth Anne Thayer, who has written a historical past of greyhound racing. However “it’s happening way faster than I thought it would.”

The Dubuque monitor closure and the top of racing in West Memphis, Arkansas, this December will depart racing solely in West Virginia, the place tracks in Wheeling and close to Charleston function with subsidies from on line casino income.

For some animal welfare teams, the business’s collapse is the fruits of a long time of labor to publicize allegations of greyhound mistreatment. The group GREY2K was shaped in 2001 and Carey Theil, the group’s govt director, mentioned he feels a way of accomplishment now that the game’s finish appears inside attain.

“This has become one of the signature animal welfare debates of our time,” Theil mentioned.

GREY2K, the Humane Society and different teams have lengthy argued that greyhound racing was merciless, together with its longtime follow of killing canines that weren’t deemed prime racers, utilizing medication to boost their efficiency, confining them for lengthy durations and subjecting animals to the chance of damage on the racetrack.

Trade supporters notice there now is a big demand to undertake retired racers and deny that the opposite issues are widespread. In addition they contend that some don’t perceive the love greyhounds have for working.

On opening day on the Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, spectators packed right into a spacious room that neglected the monitor, sipping beers and blended drinks as they pored over racing statistics earlier than putting bets at kiosks or with attendants. They expressed disappointment that the monitor would shut, lamenting the lack of an leisure choice in Dubuque, a metropolis of about 60,000 recognized for its stately brick buildings and church steeples constructed on hills overlooking the Mississippi River.

Peggy Janiszewski and her pal Robin Hannan have for years been driving about three hours from the Chicago space to Dubuque to observe the racing. They sometimes guess only some {dollars} on every race however are extra keen on watching the canines than counting their winnings.

“They’re beautiful. Like works of art,” Janiszewski mentioned.

Bruce Krueger mentioned he has been making the 170-mile (274-kilometer) drive from Milwaukee to Dubuque. He doesn’t imagine the canines are mistreated.

“I know some trainers, and they treat them like kings and queens,” Krueger mentioned.

Normal Supervisor Brian Carpenter was 16 when he began working on the monitor in its second yr and has remained 36 seasons till this, its remaining yr.

He remembers the joy when the monitor opened in 1985, a time when Iowa was mired in farm bankruptcies and far of Dubuque was struggling. Again then, hundreds of individuals would attend the races, with buses of gamblers arriving each weekend from Chicago and Milwaukee.

“It was an exciting time and the track offered good jobs,” he mentioned.

Opening day this yr drew not less than 1,000 individuals however smaller crowds are typical, particularly on weeknights.

The Dubuque monitor was helped alongside by metropolis and state funding, and after Iowa and different states started permitting casinos, the Dubuque operation was expanded to incorporate its personal on line casino.

Thayer’s guide, “Going to the Dogs,” describes a sport with a colourful and infrequently tumultuous historical past. From its starting within the Twenties following growth of the mechanical lure, the business was regularly pushing to permit for legalized betting state-by-state and to draw consideration, with assist from Hollywood celebrities, athletes and wonder pageant opponents.

At occasions, the game drew extra spectators than its extra outstanding rival horse racing. Whereas thought of seedy by some, it was mainstream leisure for many years, Thayer mentioned.

“People don’t realize how normalized it was in American culture for a long time,” she mentioned.

Greyhound racing is also held in different nations, together with Australia, Nice Britain, Eire, Mexico and Vietnam, however it’s dealing with a few of the identical issues obvious within the U.S.

Though greyhound racing within the U.S. will likely be confined solely to West Virginia, that state appears intent on retaining the game, mentioned Steve Sarras, president of the West Virginia Kennel House owners Affiliation. The state’s two tracks run races five-days every week year-round.

Sarras mentioned West Virginia legislators made repeated visits to his kennel and others to examine situations, and finally have been assured the canines are nicely handled.

“When you see it firsthand, you cannot fake how happy a dog is,” he mentioned.

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Comply with Scott McFetridge on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smcfetridge



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