Greyhound racing could be facing its final days. A federal bill would put an end to racing in West Virginia and beyond.
There are only two operating racetracks in the country, and both are in West Virginia. A bill in the US House of Representatives aims to end greyhound racing across the US and prohibit betting on races run outside the country.
Surprisingly, there seems to be little opposition to HB 3894, known as the Greyhound Protection Act, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to ban all dog racing in the US.
West Virginia is the last bastion of greyhound racing in the US
On Dec. 31, 2022, Arkansas hosted its last greyhound race at Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis. Two West Virginia casinos host greyhound races: Wheeling Island Casino and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort. Both properties run greyhound races in part due to state law, which requires a live betting event in order to sustain a casino license.
Global food service Delaware North operates both casinos, and the properties have seen steep drops in revenue over the last five years: a 60% drop for Wheeling, and 40% for Mardi Gras.
Opponents have long called the sport cruel. Due to declining revenue and attendance, greyhound racing has suffered from a drawn-out death in the public eye. Florida – among the top greyhound markets for many years – abolished the sport in late 2020. Arkansas closed shop at the end of 2022.
Even Delaware North doesn’t appear to be invested in keeping the sport alive. According to recent statements, Delaware North is much more focused on its casino business. The company has expressed no problem with shutting down greyhound racing provided West Virginia passes legislation allowing it to retain a casino license without the live betting stipulation.
This process is typically known as “decoupling,” meaning properties can cut an offering that has historically been required to hold a license while retaining its credentials and, therefore, its authorization to operate.
Politics and licenses aside, greyhound racing opponents are fighting for the welfare of the dogs involved. FOX 12 WBOY reports that numbers from the Grey2K activist group show more than 11,000 racing canines have been killed or injured in the past 15 years. Six hundred and sixty-six were injured in 2022.
Proponents say greyhound racing should be a state issue
West Virginia representatives Alex Mooney and Carol Miller vehemently oppose the new federal measure on the grounds that it should be a state issue. Mooney said in a statement that greyhound racing in the state has a “rich history.”
People of similar stances have succeeded in stopping other measures in the past. Then-Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a greyhound protection initiative in 2017. The West Virginia Senate voted in opposition to a similar bill in 2020.
The federal bill would quash any state squabbles over greyhound racing.
What’s next for greyhound racing?
HR 3894 moved to the House Committee on Agriculture on June 7, the same day it was introduced. Since then, there haven’t been any major developments.
It’s possible West Virginia lawmakers are already considering the potential impact of the Greyhound Protection Act. If passed, Delaware North’s licenses would be in jeopardy.
It would not come as a surprise to see some legislation to that aim in the very near future.