Ban Greyhound Racing Simulcasts in Massachusetts to Respect Voters, Charity Tells Lawmakers

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Ban Greyhound Racing Simulcasts in Massachusetts to Respect Voters, Charity Tells Lawmakers

The president of greyhound charity Grey2K USA Worldwide has urged lawmakers in Massachusetts to ban simulcast dog racing “to honor the will of the voters,” local NBC affiliate 22 News reports.

greyhound racing
greyhound racing
Simulcast racing at venues like Suffolk Downs in East Boston, pictured, is no longer popular, says Grey2 USA World. (Image: Jared Wickerham/New York Times)

Christine Dorchak told the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure this week to pledge support for an amendment recently added to Massachusetts’ draft sports betting bill that would end the practice.

Massachusetts residents voted to ban live dog racing and betting on races in 2008, following a ballot initiative drafted by Dorchak. The live racing ban came into effect in 2010, but that year lawmakers created a temporary extension for simulcast betting to help safeguard the state’s ailing racetracks and protect jobs.

Simulcasting allows gamblers to wager on races broadcast from elsewhere in the US and other countries.

Death of Thoroughbred Racing

The expectation was the tracks would one day be granted full-fledged casino licenses, but none of them were. Voters approved casino gaming in 2011, but the only racetrack to benefit was live harness venue Plainridge Park, which was permitted to open a slots parlor.

Suffolk Downs joined forces with Mohegan Sun to bid for the sole east Massachusetts casino license. But the gaming commission chose Wynn Resorts instead. Many in the thoroughbred racing industry felt betrayed by the decision.

Live thoroughbred horse racing came to an end in Massachusetts in June of 2019 when Suffolk Downs ran its last race. The historic track is now earmarked for redevelopment.

But year after year, the legislative extensions have continued, most recently in July 2021. Along with Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park, greyhound racing simulcasts are still permitted at Raynham Park, itself a former dog track.

“What does that say?” asked Dorchak, as reported by News 22. “That says that the voters here in Massachusetts voted to not allow the racing of greyhounds because it was cruel, but it’s OK if you use those same cruel practices somewhere else and we can just watch it. I don’t believe the voters ever thought that was going to happen.”

“And it is against the will of the voters of Massachusetts to support and subsidize the cruelty of dog racing, whether it’s here or outside this country,” she added.

Greyhound Racing Facing Extinction in US

Grey2K USA is eager to seize the moment. Sports betting is in the pipeline in Massachusetts and could provide new revenue streams for tracks that would allow them to phase out far less lucrative dog racing simulcasts. Current legislation would allow retail sports books at least two racetracks.

Meanwhile, live dog racing is on its last legs in the US. It’s currently illegal in 41 states, while Arkansas and Iowa plan to discontinue the sport by the end of next year. That would leave just two remaining tracks in the country hosting races, both in West Virginia.

Voters in Florida, formerly the epicenter of greyhound racing in US, chose to ban the sport at the 2018 ballot.

According to Grey2K USA World, dog races account for less than 25 percent of the simulcast betting in Massachusetts, with horse racing widely favored.

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