Greyhounds will Continue to Race in Massachusetts

Greyhounds will Continue to Race in Massachusetts

By: Patti Strand  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Voters in Massachusetts narrowly defeated a proposed ban on Greyhound racing in the state in spite of an over-the-top effort by anti-racing activists. Final vote tally was 52 percent against the ban, 48 percent in favor.

The campaign by Greyhound Racing Ends 2000 used ads and pamphlets with photos of dead Greyhounds and a picture of Charles Sarkis, a Massachusetts track owner. The campaign material neglected to note that the pictures were taken in Arizona, not Massachusetts, and that Sarkis had nothing to do with the deaths. Sarkis sued, but the judge declined to issue an order banishing distribution of the ad before the election.

Activists went the ballot route after unsuccessful efforts to get the Massachusetts legislature to outlaw dog racing. This is the first attempt in the US to get voters to ban the sport.

Massachusetts has two Greyhound tracks, one in the Boston suburb of Revere and the other in the Raynham-Taunton area in the southeastern portion of the state. Owners of both tracks said that conditions at their tracks are good, a claim that was substantiated by Robert Hutchinson, chairman of the state's racing commission.

"The animal-rights movement has not been truthful," Hutchinson told the Boston Globe1. "They're trying to ensnare us in a national issue, with what goes on in Alabama or Arkansas. It's wrong . . . This is a highly regulated industry in this state . . . We're the only state in the country with a State Police unit assigned to the Racing Commission. We inspect kennels; I inspect them myself."

The activists raised nearly $350,000 to support the initiative, and Greyhound racing interests raised more than $1 million to fight it. Most of the money to fight the initiative came from Massachusetts tracks, but about a dozen contributions came from racing interests in other parts of the country.

Dog racing is a declining sport in Massachusetts just as it is in other states. Throughout the country, tracks are squeezed by casinos, lotteries, and other gambling opportunities, and jobs and income have gone downhill. However, the tracks still produce jobs and dollars for local governments and a ripple effect through local economies.

Revere's Wonderland Greyhound Park is one of the city's largest employers and sources of revenue; the mayor said his city faced a loss of $800,000 if the ban passed and the track closed. Overall, Greyhound racing generated $280 million in wages, jobs for about 2000 track and kennel workers, and $8.4 million in racing taxes for the state in 1999.2

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