Dolphin racing? Don’t bet on it.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1998:
VANCOUVER, B.C.––A possible hint to the paranoid
of the depth of Japanese zeal to revive coastal whaling
lurked within a July 7 announcement by the Vancouver-based
Global Intertainment Corporation that “The first annual
International Dolphin Races, a dolphin racing and jumping
competition,” will “be held in the Caribbean next February.”
Promising that the event would “combine the spectacle
of Sea World, the betting adrenalin of Churchill Downs,
and the global reach of the Internet,” GIC added that “the contest
will be beamed into cyberspace via live feed technology
and will give viewers the opportunity to bet on their favorite
contestants from anywhere in the world.”
GIC said “The week-long event will feature animals
trained for use in dolphin shows and other entertainment
venues,” but didn’t say where they might come from.
Supposedly, “Each dolphin will pre-qualify with lap times and
jump measurements, and odds will be calculated based on
those trials. Two days will be devoted to the competitions, and
the remainder of the week will feature hourly non-competitive
shows similar to those seen at Sea World.”
With a nod to political correctness, GIC added that
“The event is designed to raise international awareness of dolphins.
A portion of the proceeds from the wagers and on-site
admission fees will be donated to the Dolphin Wildlife Fund
[and] Save the Dolphin Fund, in addition to a number of children’s
The bottom line for GIC, essentially an online bookie
joint, is purportedly that “Internet participants will be able to
place bets with a credit card” at a GIC web site.
Sounds crazy, but…
Marine mammal scientists including Simon Fraser
University professor Lawrence Dill and the editors of the
MARMAM online bulletin board for marine mammologists initially
thought it was a hoax. But GIC president James Chu and
publicist Steve Simon of S&S Public Relations in Chicago
soberly assured callers that they were indeed serious.
Cetacean Society International president Bill Rossiter
asked for protest on July 25.
“Preliminary contacts with the principles,” Rossiter
said, “indicate a significant lack of knowledge about cetaceans,
conflicting information about plans, and misleading statements.
For example, the Dolphin Wildlife Fund and Save The
Dolphin Fund do not exist. The promoters appear reluctant to
believe that many, particularly marine mammal scientists,
might object to the concept. May I suggest,” Rossiter ended,
“that the promoters’ initial responses were as ill-prepared as
they were because they were surprised to find opposing views.
They might be expected to have formulated a more convincing
response by now, but whether it is reality-based or mere promotion
must be yours to judge.”
Rossiter, known for a generous spirit and tendency to
trusr people, in 1993 donated a most useful portfolio of marine
mammal photography to ANIMAL PEOPLE––and in early
1997 gave a used car to Rick Spill, the self-professed marine
mammal activist whom ANIMAL PEOPLE suspects may be
an undercover operative of the whaling industry (see “Fixing
for a fight of Leviathans,” page one).
As result of Rossiter’s posting, Vancouver Courier
staff writer Gudrun Will reported on August 9, GIC was
“swamped with protest letters from around the world,” including
“about 20” generated by further appeals from Annalise Sorg
of the Vancouver-based organization No Whales In Captivity
Period. Humane Society of the U.S. marine mammologist
Naomi Rose jumped in too.
Will was more skeptical that the odds favor serious
intent. “Asked how the dolphins would be induced to race,”
she reported, Chu “guessed it could be done the same way
dogs are raced: by putting a female at the end of a course run
by males,” a remark suggesting Chu knows about as little of
dog-racing as he does of dolphins.
Added Will, “Chu said he’s not putting on the competition
for profit, but to get people around the world to appreciate
the intelligence of dolphins. ‘Did you know restaurants in
the Caribbean serve dolphin?’ he asked. ‘People should know
they’re highly intelligent––they can perform as horses.’”
Dolphins may be eaten at some Caribbean restaurants.
Expatriate Venezuelan ecologists Aldemaro Romero and
Ignacio Agudo have extensively documented that they are frequently
killed illegally by coastal fishers. But the “dolphin
steaks” most commonly available come from a “dolphin” of
another species, a fish also known as the dorado.
The bottom line of the July 7 GIC announcement
mentioned that the web site which is supposedly to handle the
dolphin race betting is owned by a GIC subsidiary, described
as “an offshore Internet sports book and casino located in
Roseau in the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
Independent from Britain only since 1978, Dominica
is a Caribbean island measuring just 29 miles long by 16 miles
wide, with only 83,000 permanent residents, no TV stations,
no daily newspapers, and a reputation for leaning politically as
the wind blows.
“Until five years ago,” Mark Fineman of the Los
Angeles Times reported on December 9, 1997, “the humans of
Dominica had just one interest in whales: watching them. So
why has this cash-poor island paradise, which markets itself as
‘the Nature Isle of the Caribbean, sent representatives to the
International Whaling Commission every year since 1992 to
vote for killing whales? That same year, documents show, the
Japanese government started sending millions of dollars in
development aid to Dominica––the beginning of a largess that
has totaled more than $16 million. Since then, the island has
backed Tokyo on lifting the world’s moratorium on whaling.”
In all, Fineman wrote, Japan over the past five years
had given $77 million to Caribbean island states, also including
St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua-and-Barbuda, and St.
“At the same time,” Fineman went on, “each country
consistently voted with Japan and against the U.S.-led antiwhaling
coalition on key issues at the IWC annual meetings.”
The Caribbean votes have cut the balance favoring
the moratorium to 16 for, 12 against, with four abstentions.
The Gross National Product of Dominica per year is
under $200 million. Sixteen million bucks buys a lot. Japan
funded the new fish market in Roseau, for instance. It isn’t
used much, but building it created jobs, and above it, Fineman
noted, “the Japanese and Dominica flags fly side-by-side.”
As of April 1994, Dominica prime minister Eugenia
Charles was still playing coy with Japan. She overtly favored
only “research whaling,” such as Japan has done since the
moratorium began, rather than actually lifting the moratorium.
“We are trying to know what the facts are from scientific
studies,” Charles explained, “so that we can make an
But after 14 years in charge, Charles retired in 1995,
at age 76. Her successor, Edison James, doubling as external
affairs minister, flew to Tokyo in August 1996 for four days of
meetings with Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda.
Media accounts explained that Japan wanted Dominica to support
both the resumption of commercial whaling and the
Japanese bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations
Security Council. Dominica wanted further foreign aid.
The evolution of GIC attention to Asia may also be
indicative of spreading Japanese influence.
On April 22, 1998, GIC first announced it had
obtained “a letter of intent to purchase a privately held Internet
sports book casino site.”
Five days later, still working to raise the cash to
swing the first deal, GIC added that the transaction had
expanded to include also “a letter of intent to purchase a valid
offshore Internet gaming license and assume certain liabilities
from a second privately held offshore company. Currently,”
the GIC release said, “the second Internet casino site has software
games which target Asian customers.”
To increase traffic, GIC promised to add a horse racing
site, “since horse racing is Asia’s most popular gambling
pastime.” GIC also promised that “Each of the Internet casino
sites will be translated into Chinese.”
There was no mention of other Asian languages. The
emphasis was on obtaining investment.
GIC distributed an updated edtion of the April 27
release on May 28. Now potential investors were informed that
“The company has already set up an infrastructure of representative
agents” in four Chinese cities, plus Taiwan, Korea,
Japan, and Australia.”
On July 30, GIC announced it had “completed 100%
acquisition of Netbetz Inc., a legally operating offshore
Internet gaming and sports book wagering company located in
Roseau in the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
Continuing to “focus its marketing efforts on the
global gaming market primarily in Asia,” GIC now said its betting
web site “is currently being translated into Chinese a n d
Japanese [emphasis ours],” in preparation “for the horse racing
season starting in September and October of 1998.”
Maybe the GIC discovery of Japanese bettors was
inevitable and only reflects good business sense. And maybe
the route from Vancouver to Tokyo goes through Dominica.
ANIMAL PEOPLE asked GIC president James
Chu, vice president Darren James, and directors Frank Lang
and Tony Kama the obvious questions. We even delayed going
to press for 24 hours, giving them extra time to comment. At
press time, they still hadn’t.
But it isn’t beyond imagination that as GIC tried to
capitalize their acquisition of the Dominica gambling franchise,
someone introduced them to Japanese acquaintances with deep
pockets and influence. Someone might have suggested dolphin
racing. GIC didn’t have to know why. All GIC had to do was
test the notion with an announcement.
GIC didn’t necessarily have to have any intent to turn
marine mammal defenders’ heads toward Dominica, away
from the Makah tribe gearing up to whale on Puget Sound. Nor
does GIC need to be aware at this point that if dolphin racing
actually commences late next winter, it will tend to draw
activist attention away from the next Japanese drive to break
the IWC whaling moratorium.
If GIC only pursues dolphin racing for the potential
gambling revenue, that’s enough to make capitalizing the
Dominica casino deal worthwhile for certain investors. But
until and unless either GIC or Dominica discloses who the
investors were behind it, the rest of us can only speculate.