Greyhound racing comes to end in Wisconsin

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2009:


MILWAUKEE–Greyhound racing will end in Wisconsin on December
31, 2009, 20 years after it started, with the closure of the
Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha.
“In 1989, state regulators with dollar signs in their eyes
approved five operating licenses for pari-mutuel greyhound racing,”
recounted Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Tracks
opened in Geneva Lakes, Kaukauna, Lake Delton, Hudson and Kenosha,
attracting 3.5 million visitors in 1991, the first year all five
tracks were open. But by 1994, four of the five tracks reported
losses. Costing $45 million to build, Dairyland was the last
survivor, but lost $17 million in the last seven years that it
operated. Attendance dropped 19% in 2009; wagering dropped 29%.

“With the shutdown of the Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha
set for the end of the year, concerns have been raised over who will
be responsible for the greyhounds expected to be left behind,” Walker
“There is no plan,” charged Linda Cliffel, adoption
coordinator for the Central Illinois Greyhound Adoption Group. “I
want the state and the track owners to say that, as of January 1,
2010, somebody will provide food and heat until every dog is gone.”
The Central Illinois Greyhound Adoption Group rehomed 542
greyhounds during the first 10 months of 2009, Walker reported, but
Cliffel expected the Dairyland shutdown would leave another 300
greyhounds–about a third of those kept at the track–in need of
Her estimate may be low. “Roughly 850 to 900 greyhounds
reside in Dairyland’s 12 kennels. About 25 to 30 percent of them –
the top racers – will move on to other tracks, while the rest will
be “petted out” to adoption agencies,” reported Joe Potente and John
Krerowicz of the Kenosha News, quoting Silverhawk Kennel owner Tom
“When the Geneva Lakes track closed in 2005,” Walker
remembered, “homes had to be found for an estimated 400 to 450
greyhounds. Simulcast off-track betting continued for several months
afterward. That revenue was used to care for and feed the greyhounds
who were unclaimed or taken away. That possibility does not exist
for Dairyland, executive president Roy Berger said, because the
track cannot simulcast other races around the country without
committing to 200 race dates in 2010.” Berger and Wisconsin Division
of Gaming chief Robert Stoey told Walker that placing the dogs would
be the responsibility of their owners.
Reports circulated earlier that some or all of the dogs would
be killed, but Dairyland general manager Bill Apgar told Diana
Kuyper, freelancing for the Waukegan News-Sun, that “There is
absolutely no truth behind the rumor. The state gives us three
choices,” Apgar said. “The dogs can go with their owners, they can
go to another track, or they can be adopted.”
Greyhound racing is also to end in Massachusetts at the end
of 2009. However, Boston Globe correspondent Christine Legere
reported, “The Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Track and Wonderland in
Revere will be allowed to simulcast races until July,” due to
enabling legislation signed by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick
on November 24, 2009. The object of the legislation was to keep
about 100 track workers employed.
“Our understanding is that the vast majority of the
simulcasting is of horse racing rather than greyhound racing,” Grey
2K USA executive director Carey Thiel told Legere. “We took a neutral
position on the simulcast bill as an olive branch to the track
workers,” Thiel said. Thiel and Grey 2K president Christine Dorchak
led the campaign that led to the abolition of greyhound racing in
Massachusetts via ballot initiative in November 2008.
The Phoenix Greyhound Park is also to close at year’s end,
the operators informed the Arizona Department of Racing in September.
“Track officials said the park would remain open for live racing
until December 19, continue to simulcast races until December 31,
then shift some of its simulcast operations to Apache Greyhound Park
in Apache Junction,” reported Amy B. Wang of the Arizona Republic.
Opened in 1954, running live races seven days a week, the
Phoenix Greyhound Park claimed pari-mutuel betting revenue of almost
$100 million in 1998, but attracted only $46.4 million in 2008.
“UTGR Inc.,” owner of the Twin River greyhound track in
Rhode Island, “has agreed to pay the Rhode Island Greyhound Owners
Association $2 million to end racing at the track if a restructuring
plan is approved by a federal judge, according to court documents,”
Associated Press writer Ray Henry reported on October 23. “The dog
owners would receive an additional $3 million if Twin River
successfully emerges from bankruptcy.”
The track, the last in Rhode Island, declared bankruptcy in
June 2009. UTGR Inc. hopes to continue operating it as a slot
machine gambling venue.

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