Standardbred Canada yesterday ran an article on their website on how Florida horsemen got together and testified for a Senate Gaming Committee meeting regarding the abuse of pari-mutuel licenses to get alternative gaming in the Sunshine State and how it threatens the breeding and racing industries in Florida; no doubt focusing on Creek Entertainment Gretna and their pari-mutuel barrel racing.
It was a good article, after all how often do quarter horse, standardbred, and thoroughbred horsemen unite in a common endeavor? If you read the article but didn't watch the hearing you may have thought 'well done' and left it at that.
If you did watch the video, you would have seen the first person testifying was Cary M. Theil, Executive Director for Grey2K USA, an organization which seeks to adopt out retired greyhounds as well as fights to get greyhound racing tracks closed (his presentation may be seen here starting on page four). While Theil talked about humane issues involving greyhounds, most of his presentation was on the economics of greyhound racing; the number of tracks closing, the amount of money wagered declining, the cost of regulating the sport (it now costs more to regulate greyhound racing than it brings in). Whereas the other speakers were talking about the need to preserve racing and stop these fraudulent pari-mutuel events which allow these facilities to open racinos and/or card rooms, Mr. Theil was talking about 'decoupling'; allowing greyhound tracks to offer alternative gaming without requiring greyhound racing. Needless to say most greyhound tracks would jettison their racing program in a moment if decoupling was allowed.
Now in many ways the issue of greyhound and horse welfare are very different; in some ways they are very similar. Let's look ahead a few years and assume horse racing deals with the same issues it's dealing with now; low attendance, low wagering, and the same ills of drugs, breakdowns, and slaughter (we are talking all breeds); how long is it going to be before we have a representative from anti-horse racing groups making the same arguments about decoupling horse racing from casino games?
Right now the greyhound tracks in Florida are not asking for decoupling, being satisfied with racing to allow their alternative gaming activities to continue but in states like Iowa, they are actively trying to decouple. While there are standardbred and thoroughbred tracks who truly are supportive of their racing programs, there are horse tracks who given the opportunity would be more than happy to advocate they should not be forced to lose money on racing to operate the casino end of their business. If racing fails to build its business back up to some degree and address humane issues which concern the general public, an organization such as a Grey2K USA and racetracks could become allies working on the same goal of getting rid of racing.
Through this committee hearing, we have gotten a peak of what the future of racing may hold. Can the three racing breeds work together to address some of the issues so this remains an issue unique to greyhound racing? Time will tell.
And the Governor comes again. Once again, the Goverrnor of Pennsylvania has eyes on the