A Dying Breed: Greyhound racing's multi-million dollars secret

A Dying Breed: Greyhound racing's multi-million dollars secret

On average, a greyhound is injured every three days at Southland Race Track, according to state racing records obtained by FOX13.

40 states have made greyhound racing illegal.

Yet, state laws in Arkansas protect racing. Some laws even reward dog owners, breeders and trainers with millions of dollars from other gambling games that make almost all the money.

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Southland is one of only 18 dog tracks in the country to still be in operation today and the only one in Arkansas.

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“Look, I think this is the industry’s dirty little secret,” said Carey Theil, the head of the nonprofit Grey2K USA.

Theil studies the greyhound racing industry. He said gambling on races at Southland has dropped 60% since 2001 adding, “these tracks have essentially become poker rooms and casinos that happen to have dogs running around in circles with no one betting on them.”

And the sport can be a dangerous one.

FOX13 researched state records that show the last 10 years.

At Southland 1,130 dogs have been injured, 712 dogs have suffered broken bones and 35 dogs died.

“These dogs are suffering broken legs, broken necks and other catastrophic injuries,” Theil said.

FOX13 obtained video that shows a dog named White Knight getting injured while racing and another video that shows a dog named Moonshine getting trampled on. Moonshine was racing again within days.

“That to me is an example of how they put profits ahead of animal welfare,” Theil said.

In addition, breeders and owners make millions. More money goes to the breeders from subsidies and it’s protected by state law, than by bets.

A 2017 letter from the Arkansas Racing Commission explains how the subsidy structure works.

Arkansas state law sets aside 14% of the gambling profits from electronic games of skill to go directly to the dog racing purses.

A second subsidy fund, again protected by state law, gives millions to the dog owners each year.

Here’s how the math played out in 2016 at Southland. $18 million was bet on dog races physically at the track.  But, $28.3 million was set aside in subsides, $10 million more than what was waged by bettors at Southland.

That’s money Theil says could instead go back to the state to be used for things like education.

“So what you have here is essentially one type of gambling at Southland subsidizing another type of gambling and as a result the state is losing out,” said Theil.

Why not just do away with greyhound racing?  Arkansas state law protects it, in fact goes even further saying, dog racing is mandatory in order to have the profitable other games.

“Everyone knows how this story ends. Greyhound racing is eventually going to end in Arkansas and it’s going to end all over the country. The only question is how many dogs are going to suffer in the meantime and how long it’s going to take,” said Theil.

FOX13 reached out to Southland and its ownership group Delaware North multiple times asking for an on-camera interview.

They first asked we provide the injury records we obtained. When we didn’t provide them, they turned down our interview request and sent a statement. It reads in part:

“Our safety practices and procedures are developed with veterinarians and animal experts to focus on the animals’ safety at all times. Our racing operations meet or exceed safety standards and we use industry best practices in maintaining the racing surface to ensure greyhounds aren’t injured because of racetrack conditions.”  

Greyhound racing is not operational in 4 of the remaining 10 states it’s legal in. Those states are Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon and Wisconsin.