A Senate bill in West Virginia that would have brought an end to greyhound racing in the state which would have been a deadly blow to greyhound racing nationwide failed 11-23 Wednesday.
“Not only was it a win, I think it was a statement,” said Jim Garland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association located west of Abilene. “If you listened to the testimony of the senators and comments they made, it was a very decisive win.”
Some West Virginia senators saw an opportunity to actually expand greyhound racing.
“One of the senators pointed out speaking today they have a chance to grow their markets now with Florida losing racing,” he said. “They have a chance to grow bigger through simulcasting.”
At the end of 2020, greyhound racing will end in Florida where most of the greyhound simulcasting wagering is generated.
“That says something about racing in Kansas. If we can get Kansas racing going, there is a big market out there worldwide for greyhound racing,” he said.
There are two bills, one in the house and one in the Senate, that could bring greyhound racing back to Wichita Greyhound Park.
However, little is being done in Topeka as the expansion of Medicaid and an abortion amendment have bogged things down.
“Our work on the Senate floor has not begun for this session with leadership refusing to debate bills until the abortion amendment is passed,” Sen. Randall Hardy, R-Salina, said in his newsletter. “The House is struggling to arrive at a solution that 2/3 of the body can support.”
Past bills to return greyhound racing to Wichita Greyhound Park by changing the formula to what taxes track operators would receive have failed.
Tracy Wildey, a past president of the Kansas Greyhound Association, said neither of the greyhound bills are scheduled for hearings.
“Right now, as you well know, what’s going on in Kansas, they are at a standstill over Medicaid and the abortion situation. They have pretty much kept anything from happening.”
She said the senators in West Virginia realized that some of the arguments that are being stated about greyhound racing are “lies.”
“The thing that West Virginia showed, people are starting to listen to the fact that the statistics that Grey2K and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) are putting out there are lies,” she said. “They are blatant lies. They are being exposed.
“I hope the tide is turning and they’re seeing the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. We all want animal welfare. We all want animals taken care of. Animal rights, they lie, cheat and steal to get what they want.”
The closing of Wheeling Downs in Wheeling and Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lane would have cut into the number of greyhounds being raised in Dickinson County.
“We needed a shot in the arm and to know that racing will continue in West Virginia so people around the country can keep doing what they do, raising dogs to run at these tracks,” Gartland said.
The bill in West Virginia would have eliminated the West Virginia Greyhound Breeders Development Fund which was created when greyhound owners agreed to allow casino-type wagering at the two tracks.
According to the Wheeling News-Register, Sens. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, and Bill Inhlenfield, D-Ohio, spoke in favor of greyhoud racing.
“To say this is an industry in decline, that’s simply a misnomer,” Weld said.
Weld said GREY2K, an animal rights group based in Massachusetts and an advocate for ending greyhound racing, is using misinformation while doing nothing to help with greyhound adoption efforts in states that have ended racing, including Florida.
“They were involved in outlawing racing in Florida, then played no part in the adoption of the dogs in the industry afterward,” Weld said. “If this bill were to pass, they have no plan whatsoever.”
Ihlenfeld said he and Weld visited a dog kennel in Brooke County last week, and he came away impressed with how the animals are treated.
He also said, as other states have ended greyhound racing and there are only a handful of tracks left nationwide, West Virginia should be working to build the industry and capture the dog racing market.
“There aren’t many industries in our state that we control,” Ihlenfeld said. “We’re getting close to being the only game in town when it comes to this industry. Instead of kicking this to the curb, we ought to embrace it. We ought to modernize it. We ought to make it even better and allow even more people to send money to West Virginia.”
Contact Tim Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.