US Casino Explosion Leads Gamblers Away From Greyhound Racing Tracks
The rise of online casinos and the current casino explosion being experienced in the US has had an extremely detrimental effect on the Sport of Queens.
Greyhound racing was faltering as far back as 1990, but the arrival of slot machines, that were only allowed to operate in conjunction with the racetracks, were enough to revive the industry as a portion of the slot revenues was used to fund the tracks. “It was a kind of a golden age after that” said Sam Burdette who is head of the Virginia Greyhound Breeders Association.
Now though, with the current casino explosion in the US, more casinos are being opened, both online and at land based sites, and the allure of quick money is drawing the crowds away from the tracks and into the open arms of the many new casinos.
The reason behind the migration from the tracks to the casinos is strangling the Greyhound industry as gamblers seem to favor a more fast-paced form of gambling, leaving the few remaining dogs to race in front of nearly empty stands which once creaked under the burden of thousands of gamblers.
“We’ll be done in a couple of years if nothing changes” said Harvey Maupin, a greyhound trainer and one of the oldest names in the industry.
In many parts of the country, where the sport of Queens was once a thriving industry, many believe it won’t survive the onslaught of growing animal welfare groups and the expansion of the casino industry which is only too eager to offer players new ways to gamble.
“People want instant gratification these days” said Sam Burdette, head of the Greyhound Lobby, “It’ll take you half an hour to lose $50 at a racetrack. You can do it in five minutes sitting in front of a slot machine”.
In both trackside parlors and betting shops, which broadcast the races simultaneously, betting on the Greyhound races has plummeted from $3,5 million in 1991 to just $665 million in 2012. At its peak, there were over 50 tracks that operated in 15 states, now though, that many states have begun to reexamine the laws that casino and greyhound racing operate in unison and that a portion of the revenue generated by slots, poker and blackjack is used to subsidize the tracks.
In 2010, after a campaign that highlighted many animal welfare concerns, Massachusetts voted to ban Greyhound racing and Iowa was quick to follow suite as now retired Governor, Terry Branstad, signed a law that saw the state close down the tracks and eliminate the $14 million subsidy that had kept the Greyhound industry afloat.
Some in the Greyhound industry firmly believe the casinos are working against them. One such individual, Rod Monroe, trainer and breeder from Wheeling, West Virginia said: “I honestly think they’re working against us. I think they want to make it hard for people to come out to see the dogs”.
At one point, Monroe said, anybody wishing to visit the track at the Wheeling Island Casino, were forced to go through a parking garage just to reach the dog track. At Mardi Gras, all the Greyhound fans had to take a side elevator and walk across two gaming floors filled with Slots, Poker pits and Blackjack tables, just to get to the outside gallery, which was also filled with slot machines.
Charleston trainer Tim Byrnes lamented the placing of the viewing areas and the unnecessary detours needed to find them, “You need a GPS to even find us” he said.
Casinos, it seems, are only too happy to get away from the various Greyhound subsidies and have formed unusual alliances with animal welfare groups who have often said that the sport is cruel. Some of the worst cases cited by advocates of the animal welfare groups, have seen them claim trainers beat dogs, feed them contaminated food and have even trained them using live rabbits as bait.
Even the kennels, those classed as “good” by the welfare groups, have come under attack. Advocates for the groups have said “none of them are malicious acts of cruelty, but in our view these standard practices together constitute and industry that is cruel and inhumane”. The acts, mentioned by the animal rights groups, include the injuries that some animals sustain during races and the training routines that see the dogs housed in pens for most of the day.
The dog breeders and trainers vehemently disagree with the statements made by welfare groups and have even gone on to say that their dogs live better lives than many of the pets that are kept cooped up in small apartments all day and fed table scraps by their owners.
However, it doesn’t matter on which side of the fence you sit as gamblers themselves are turning to other means of entertainment, regardless of the actions of welfare groups and trainers alike. In our fast-paced, modern society, instant gratification is key. Gamblers don’t have or want to waste time on a race that occurs every 30 minutes, preferring instead to visit a casino or play online where they can fit in a lot more gambling.
Even new legislation seems to be adding in the downfall of the racetracks as various states have legalized online gambling. Gamblers living in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware don’t even need to leave the house to play casino games anymore and if they do, they can still use their mobile phones and tablets to play without ever having to step foot inside a casino.
With even more states looking into the legalization of online casinos and the opening of new land based ones in nearly every state, the century old tradition of Greyhound racing is nearing its end. It would seem, like it is in many other aspects of modern life, that trends change and fickle gamblers are only too willing to change with it.
However, as one industry nears its end, another is ready to take its place and with the downfall of the Greyhound tracks, comes the rise of the online casino. People, it seems, would much rather spend their time and money at home with an online casino, than at a racetrack with a few dogs.
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