Greyhound racing in the US is nearing its end. After the end of the 2022 season, in May, the Iowa Greyhound Park track in Dubuque will close for good, meaning that by the end of the year, there will only be two tracks left in the country. The sport reached its peak in the 1980s, with more than 50 tracks across 19 states.
Increased concerns about how the dogs are treated are credited with playing their part in the sport losing popularity. According to data cited by Associated Press from racing associations, betting on greyhounds plunged from $3.5 billion in 1991 to about $500 million in 2014. The figure is probably lower now, given many more tracks have closed since then.
The closure of greyhound parks responds to diverse factors. In the case of Florida, a voter initiative ended the sports at the state’s dozen tracks in 2021; while in Iowa, state officials allowed casinos to end subsidies that had kept greyhound racing alive, as interest declined. The end of greyhound racing in Florida, which was long the epicenter of the sport, disrupted the industry and resulted in a dramatic drop-off in greyhound breeding.
The Dubuque track’s impending closure, and the end of racing in West Memphis, Arkansas, this December will leave racing only in West Virginia. Two tracks operate in this state, in Wheeling and near Charleston, with subsidies from casino revenue, further reports AP.
Greyhound racing is still conducted in countries such as Australia, pictured above
The news has been celebrated by many animal welfare groups, including GREY2K and the Humane Society, among others. They claim the sport is cruel, citing alleged practices such as killing dogs that aren’t deemed top racers, or using drugs to enhance performance.
However, industry supporters claim there now is a bigger demand to adopt retired racers, and deny cruelty problems are widespread; plus contend the general public doesn’t understand the love greyhounds have for running.
Opening day at the Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque drew at least 1,000 people, but smaller crowds are typical, especially on weeknights. The track was helped along by city and state funding. After Iowa began allowing casinos, the Dubuque operation expanded to include its own facility.
Greyhound bettors will still have West Virginia, which seems intent on retaining the sport, according to what Steve Sarras, president of the West Virginia Kennel Owners Association, told Associated Press. The state’s two tracks run races five days a week year-round, with no signs of slowing down.