Greyhound racing

Greyhound owners received devastating news last week that Southland Greyhound Park will close at the end of 2022.

At the end of 2020, five tracks will end pari-mutuel wagering on racing greyhounds in Florida.

“It is drastically going to change things for the industry,” said Julia Ward, president of the National Greyhound Association. “I don’t know what that means at this moment.

“It’s fresh news to everyone.”

“As far as hauling, it basic-ally puts me out of business,” said David Strong who hauls racing greyhounds to and from Florida and Abilene along with raising greyhounds.

“There will not be greyhounds in Dickinson County in five years,” said Tracy Wildey, vice president of Kansas Greyhound Association.

The only hope for a revival of the industry is pari-mutuel wagering returning in Kansas. Racing at Wichita Greyhound Park and The Woodlands in Kansas City ended in 2009.

The National Greyhound Association finished its semiannual meeting Friday with an auction that topped $1.39 million. Strong with partner Clinton Blair had the highest sale in the auction with Pop Macadangdang going for $47,000.

But greyhound owners are shaking their heads, wondering about the future of the sport and national meets that date back to 1886 at Cheyenne Bottoms.

“I think, at minimum, there will be two more meets,” said Jim Gartland, executive director of the NGA. “We still have a lot of ‘what ifs’ in the air — what happens in West Virginia, what happens in Kansas, what happens in Iowa and Texas. I think we are all being cautious right now.

“We have three years for sure in Arkansas,” he said. “We have possibilities in Kansas. Who knows?”

Gartland said Ruffin is still interested in pursuing pari-mutuel greyhound racing in Kansas.

“They had planned running some form of bill,” he said.

Fewer dogs and tracks

“It’s going to change it,” Ward said.

The Wayne Ward Kennel generally raised 500 to 600 racing greyhounds on the farm west of Abilene.

“Last year in the spring I cut down to half. Now I’m down to about 150,” Ward said. “There are going to be fewer dogs raised.”

On Dec. 31, 2020, greyhound racetracks in Florida — Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Derby Lane, Palm Beach, Sanford-Orlando and Naples — will close.

Southland Greyhound Park, which pays three times that of Wheeling Downs in West Virginia, announced it will cease live racing at the end of 2023.

Left will be Wheeling, Tri-state Dubuque in Iowa, Gulf in Texas and Birmingham.

Caliente has greyhound racing in Mexico, where simulcast wagering is done throughout Mexico and South America.

“There are challenges in getting the greyhounds across the border,” Ward said.

Arkansas

Strong once raised and trained about 60 greyhounds of his own and about 60 for customers.

“More than likely, I’ll maybe raise 20 dogs,” he said.

He also plans to move the greyhounds to Arkansas for the next three years. Quarterly bonus money is paid to greyhounds registered as “Arkansas bred” winning races at Southland Greyhound Park.

The greyhound track in West Memphis, Arkansas, is owned by Delaware North, with headquarters in Buffalo, New York. It is a worldwide food service, hospitality and gaming company with a long history of greyhound racing.

“I always thought that Southland and Delaware North were going to stay in the racing business,” Ward said. “When that amendment passed down in Arkansas, we didn’t think it was going to be an issue because of their passion, love for racing and they were making money at it.”

Delaware North also owns Wheeling and recently purchased Tri-State Greyhound Park in Cross Lanes.

Greyhound and horse racing returning to the state of Kansas could happen if the Kansas Legislature could agree on the split of the profits and new contracts are awarded to the current casinos.

“That would be huge for the state of Kansas as well as Dickinson County if we could get the tracks back open here in Kansas,” Ward said.

Kansas track

Strong said that with the closing of the tracks, greyhound racing returning to Kansas would give the Kansas tracks the main signal where wagers could be made at casinos nationwide.

“Kansas would get all the simulcast money,” Strong said. “I could see $500,000, $600,000 handles every day. They would be the only one simulcasting and not only in this country but sending the signal out to other countries.”

Ward said Kansas currently has a live pari-mutuel wagering bill.

“We can have live racing at every one of those tracks,” she said.

Both the Kansas City and Pittsburg tracks also can have slot machines. Another vote in Sedgwick County would be needed for slot machines at the Wichita venue.

Ward said the current bill is not cost effective for owner Phil Ruffin.

Ruffin was raised in Wichita and, according to Forbes, dropped out of Wichita State University to sell hamburgers with his buddies. Forbes estimated his real time net worth at $2.8 billion.

According to Forbes.com, “Phil Ruffin owns the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino plus 50 percent of the Trump International Las Vegas hotel alongside friend Donald Trump.”

“People say that he is being greedy, but how is it being greedy when he’s paying 15 percent to the breeds on top of paying to the state, which is higher than the standalone casinos that don’t have to pay the breeds? He just wants an even playing field,” Ward said.

According to the Wichita Eagle, the Sedgwick County commission voted unanimously in early September to reject a move to open Wichita Greyhound Park with slot machines and greyhound racing.

The commission had considered putting a measure on the November election ballot that would have asked residents if they wanted to allow slot machines.

Gartland said Ruffin is still interested in pursuing pari-mutuel greyhound racing in Kansas.

“They had planned running some form of bill,” he said.

Wildey said the casino operators threatened lawsuits in Sedgwick County if pari-mutuel wagering on greyhounds resumed.

She said the law reads correctly but the contracts the casinos signed with the state give the casinos more scope to prevent the competition.

Wildey said Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will be negotiating new contracts next year.

“I would love to be at the table so the mutuels don’t get left off,” said Wildey, who is a lobbyist.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

(2) comments

Bil

However, this does give john barker another successful run as a kansas rep. He can say he will reintroduce gambling to get reelected. Then when it fails again he still has his cash...

Fred Barton

"Gartland said Ruffin is still interested in pursuing pari-mutuel greyhound racing in Kansas."

For a business man, Mr. Ruffin appears unable to read trends, or perhaps he thinks he'll make a killing as the owner of the only greyhound racing track left in the country by the time he finally wears the people of Kansas down enough that they finally give up saying no to him.

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