Inventing American greyhound racing history

AN anti-racing commenter questioned my facts regarding greyhound racing in the United States, after I raised issues about Premier Baird making two false statements in an interview on 2GB. Baird claimed racing had been conducted in a majority of American states in the ‘late 1970s’ but was now down to just five.

So let’s get this right: at no time in the history of the United States has any kind of racing, horse, harness or greyhounds, been conducted in a majority of the 50 US states, a majority being at least 26. Baird’s comments were totally, and probably intentionally, misleading. After all, Baird would know most listeners would not have a clue about greyhound racing and its history in the United States. Then again, neither does Mike Baird, but that would never stop a career politician like him from pretending he does.

I wrote that in 1972 seven US states conducted greyhound racing, but JeffWhite4 asked why I picked that year to represent the ‘late 1970s’. Ok, well to satisfy him, and no doubt others in the anti-racing camp, let’s go to 1981 instead. Quoting from The Encyclopaedia of Greyhound Racing by Roy Genders, which was first published in 1981: ‘In the USA, except in New York State, there is no legalized off-course betting…[There are] seven states which permit greyhound racing…of which Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona and Arkansas are the most important.’ So, in 1972 the US had seven states with greyhound racing and, nine years later, in 1981, it still had seven. With Texas about to restart, the industry will still be operational in six American states as of next year. I will repeat it again, at no time has greyhound racing ever been conducted in a majority of US states.

JeffWhite4 also listed a number of states where he claimed greyhound racing has been banned, including New Hampshire. In fact, simulcast greyhound racing (as well as simulcast horse and harness racing) takes place at Seabrook Park in New Hampshire. This is another state which formerly had racing but economics has, as I understand it, led to it being more profitable to just have simulcasts instead of live racing.

Unlike Australia, the vast majority of tracks in the US are privately-run and with declining attendances and increased land values (a bit like Wentworth Park and some of the other NSW-government owned tracks), it was a no-brainer for the owners to turn a nice profit on a large property which had been losing customers since the advent of the internet age.

As the GRA/America secretary replied to me in an email, ‘I will say that most of the states that have any legislation at all is to ban pari-mutual (sic) betting within the state, not racing itself. It does not stop online betting. And…most states do NOT have racing.’

Certainly Maine (1993) has legislation banning greyhound racing, a sport which has never operated in the state anyway, as does Arizona and Colorado, with the latter still permitting simulcast betting at its single horse racing track. It’s also worth noting greyhound racing ended in 2008 in Colorado, once more because of simple economics.

Turning to the alleged American breeder whose unsubstantiated quote about drowning pups appeared on page one of the McHugh report, a commenter on this website, Lone Widow, stated, ‘as a breeder I can tell you unequivocally that I don’t know until my pups are on the track after breaking in (14-15 months) how good they are. I had a bitch pup once that had a congenital deformity of the back leg that ran within 0.04 seconds of a track record. The quote of “as a breeder from an unnamed American source” is absolute garbage.’

Of course that statement, from an Australian breeder, wouldn’t have suited the McHugh Commission, so it would never have made it as a quote for page one of the report.

Past Discussion

  1. Duncan, Coursing the pre runner to the modern greyhound racing did not have a great hold in the USA prior to Mechanical Hare racing and this is the reason that mechanical hare racing was restrictive in America  as it was just about a foreign culture ,whilst in the UK and Australia the coursing was a major enterprise. and mechanical racing followed easily The illusion that the broad public have and encouraged by “welfare historians” is that greyhound racing existed in all States of America and all countries world wide and through the efforts of welfare groups has been closed down in all places except Australia. In trying to write a narrative into greyhound history the popular belief in historical circles is that Bevan the premier who banned greyhound racing in principal and then was forced not only to allow it but increased the number of licences changed his decision because of financial reasons. I think that the evidence now available disputes this and the more likely reason was that coursing which had 150 race grounds registered and reported in NSW meant that nearly all country people had a history of relatives and friends who where connected to greyhound activity. When you are dealing with rural areas always look for amenity and activity. The above situation still exists and I would not insult country members of parliament of all persuasions not to know this is true. I have worked in the field with the country pollies on and off for most of my working life.

    If you trace the rise and fall of the British empire you can get a good idea of where greyhound activities have existed. The expansion of the Anglo sport followed the ex pats. Previous statistics show that over 80% of greyhound people are from anglo origin and i think it is less than 1% participants from America. ( from memory).

    In my view the current State Government and the Commission weighing extra-ordinary cultural American conditions onto the Australian culture is fraught with dangers. I must disclose that I admire a lot about the Americans (they are the home of the brave) but I am tribal enough to be prouder of the Australian culture of a fair go.

  2. In 1981, in addition to the four states Duncan Stearn mentioned above, greyhound racing was taking place in at least eight other states: Alabama (Mobile Greyhound Park); New Hampshire (Hinsdale Raceway), Colorado (Mile High Kennel Club), Connecticut (Plainfield Greyhound Park), Rhode Island (Lincoln Downs); Vermont (Green Mountain racetrack), West Virginia (Wheeling Downs), and Oregon (Murray Kemp Greyhound Park). So Roy Genders’s encyclopedia is wrong if it states otherwise.

    And while it is probably true that commercial greyhound racing has never existed simultaneously in 26 or more of the United States, it has existed from time to time in at least 42 of those states. In fact, if Baird had said “prior to” the late 1970s, he would have been quite correct.

    So my point is that it’s silly to mock an Australian politician for misstating the facts about dog racing in the United States in the 1970s, when even greyhound racing industry journalists don’t get it right all the time, either.   

  3. The situation in the USA is not the be all and end all example of what to do and how to behave is. Many States in America still have the Death Penalty and the whole country absolutely adores guns & rifles.  Should we follow their lead and thrash our standing on those issues?

  4. JeffWhite4  It is always open season on politicians and anyone mocking Baird would have little effect on his reputation he already is a mockery.

  5. Deborah555 JeffWhite4 It is the narrative from facts that is deadly and fuels perceptions. The facts on the USA are easily obtainable. The grouping of States with single complex in the USA if studied will show the cultural differences between racing there and in Australia that only has single smaller structures in the territories not the states (AU). 

    Sorry I cant spend more time on this. 

  6. Duncan – as a former NH resident, I can say that racing greyhounds until the naughties operated in at three tracks in New Hampshire being Laconia, Belmont and Seabrook. By far Seabrook was the most successful. The trouble with racing in the USA (NH not alone) is that there really was never ever any central regulatory authority on a state basis. On a national basis yes, but the tracks are run independently by corporations and those who choose to be trainers are employed effectively by the track owners.

    The notion of an Owner-Trainer/backyard trainer who brings his dogs to the track to race but at all other times treats them as pets is lost in the USA. That is the air that the anti-racing advocates breathe. Dogs kenneled at the track and trialed only at that track. Unfortunately the errors in the US administration are popagated by the antis.

    As you well know – here in Australia – the greyhounds leave the track – the state authorities administer all racing and those tracks (mostly – there are exceptions) are administered by the authorities. The US model is very different. I could not in good conscience participate in racing in the USA during my time there yet I am a trainer here and have no moral qualms about putting my dogs on a track over here in Australia.

    I do have an issue with the authorities in each State not providing straight track racing in each and every state that is TAB class (aside from Victoria) but that in my view would prolong many chasers’ careers and provide a more consistent product to punters, owners and admirers alike as we have addressed in the past.

    Circle tracks with at least one TAB class straight track option in all Australian states would in my view be a great outcome for the dogs. For the owners and trainers, integrity and oversight of the industry that is decoupled from the promotion and marketing activities wouldnt be that hard to accomplish.

    In the case of NH – none the above were feasible and that is why no racing exists in NH anymore. Sad for the punters and fans of the breed but the only outcome when corporations run without independent oversight.

  7. Selective data is being used to create narratives but to produce a historical narrative of worth there needs to be the factor of data confirmed wherever possible with original documents; knowledge and wisdom. Thanks Jason and BJoe for going down the cultural road. To understand the complex nature of these subjects listen to the Barry Jones and Phillip Adams interview.

    https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgZL78wpdV?play=true

    Greyhound Racing should not encourage the impression that it will be business as usual when the dust settles, reforms will be brought in by creative tension

  8. What’s your point, Mr. Stearn? Greyhound racing is exploitative in the US. It’s exploitative in Australia, and besides, you said it yourself:

    “Unlike Australia, the vast majority of tracks in the US are privately-run and with declining attendances and increased land values (a bit like Wentworth Park and some of the other NSW-government owned tracks), it was a no-brainer for the owners to turn a nice profit on a large property which had been losing customers since the advent of the internet age.”

    That’s right. It’s fundamentally dead in the US and slowly dying in Australia. Between 2001 and 2013, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing in the US declined by 68%. This includes gambling on live dog racing and simulcast so your point about only “live” racing being outlawed is rather moot. . As the industry shrinks and more people are chasing less dollars the pressure to win will mount and the dogs will be the ultimate victims. 

    It doesn’t really matter whether Mr. Baird misspoke, or was misinformed because how many states do or don’t allow racing isn’t the point, except, as you have done, to allow the industry to change the subject from the abject cruelty at the base of an industry that commodifies innocent living creatures.

    I am a Board member of Grey2KUSA Worldwide, an organization that fights to save these marvelous creatures all over the globe. (you can learn more about us here: http://www.grey2kusa.org/index... I have fostered and adopted rescued racing greyhounds since 1995. I cannot imagine abandoning any of them when they become injured, old or sick and yet this is routinely what happens to them at operating tracks. That is what you should be talking about.
    Fred Barton
    Board Member
    Grey2K USA Worldwide

  9. FredBarton  Yes but you still have not stated the number you have adopted which I bet would be no higher than the number of dogs many dog trainers keep until they are old it’s just that we don’t have any political agendas or wish to hide behind “loving greyhounds” to tell others what to do.

  10. Deborah555 FredBarton The cultural difference between Australians and Americans in this dispute is that we Australians don’t believe in prohibition as a political solution to anything and that greyhound racing and coursing in Australia has deep roots here as a culture. I accept the disclosures published by Grey2k as sound historically for America but due to cultural differences is our two countries the narratives are different.

    Before I go any further I need to State than I have great respect for the American people, We owe America a great debt not only for their intersession during the second world war but the generosity of their soldiers at the time visiting Australia. The differences in our cultures was made most evident leading to the attempt of Parliament in Australia to ban the political communist party by prohibition in 1951. Americans debated the ban with speakers on the soap boxes in our City domain and the Americans argued that the speakers were wasting their intelligence on politics when they could aspire to be leaders in business. Australians regulated gun laws and metric measures with ease.

    The prohibitions being sought by Governments in Australia by banning an industry will test the Australian culture but they are not as challenging as the Australian Public voting down the prohibition of the political party in 1950’s . In this instance both political parties and the Parliament were bi-partisan against the communist party and passed legislation to ban it and it ended up in a referendum to the people and the people rejected it in a popular vote and the majority of the States. The American press went viral and declared that Australia was turing communist which really had little to do with the misunderstanding of Australian culture.

    The Ironic point of all this is that we now face a situation in Australia where the NSW Greens which are essentially controlled by international socialists etc the fore-runnier of the old communist party are in concert with the hard right of the Liberal Party. The Greens need to remember that if the prohibition of political parties had have occurred in the 1950’s they would have been regarded as an unlawful party.

    One difference I picked up with our differing cultures was the American’s were always proud and loyal to their presidents and could not understand or warm to the fact that we were always running down our Prime Ministers. From the various reports about your candidates in the coming election you will have your work cut out in this respect anyway , but then again America is the home of the brave.

  11. John Tracey Deborah555 FredBarton  thanks for another great read John. Yes the prohibition of alcohol didn’t turn out brilliantly –  I have read a couple of reports from American historians who believe it was a major impetus to the rise of  organised crime. Yes banning is easy and vote catching initially but supervising, reforming, consulting they are a bit harder.

    Whilst you are so much more eloquent at expressing your views I don’t have your patience and have become very tired of a tiny minority of the greyhound adopters who believe this now gives them license to demonise an entire industry. They could not possibly be speaking for the vast majority of decent people who are giving homes to greyhounds.

    I have never been so interested in American politics as this years campaign – as Bob Carr expressed “the best theatre on the planet at the moment”

    Yes it is interesting – the animal activists and left leaning while disaffected working class and unemployed Americans are looking to the right for salvation.

  12. FredBarton FRED.

    what a pleasure to chat with a BOARD MAN. yes I have spelt BORED correct….oops, BOARD.

    FRED, wont disagree with the general thesis you guys put out about PROTECTION OF ANIMALS. wont argue with that.

    also wont argue over live baiting as it did exist. FRED, I said it did exist.

    now FRED, if we showed you ,and why we bother showing a yank what should happen because they have a history of doing there own thing and stuffing it up anyway,how the industry as far as racing goes,can exist. WOULD YOU LISTEN?…NO.

    then I would ask what the hell is your point son. the point is you want no greyhound racing at all to exist any where in the world. YOU,as a rep of GREY2K,wants his way. no other reasons,YOU just want it shut down.

    NOW, I DONT SAY YOU DONT GIVE VALID REASONS,BUT WHAT BLOODY BUSINESS IS IT OF YOURS,WHAT OCCURS IN THIS COUNTRY,OR ANY COUNTRY THAT HAS ZILCH TO DO WITH YOU? I have said,and will repeat,AMERICANS histrionics throughout the world,leaves humanity gasping. they are the so-called SUPER POWER……OF WHAT? DEMANDING IT YOUR WAY? SURELY NOT, IT IS A FREE WORLD,SAYS A YANK. DO WHAT YA NEED TO DO,WE ARE HERE AS FRIENDS…….HAHAHAHAHA, YEAH RIGHT.

    it is not a secret that attendances are dropping in AUSTRALIA. believe it or not FRED, we are well aware of this. and this is because the MEDIA OF TODAY,brings it into your lounge room,the comfort of your home.(WE DONT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BEING PULLED OVER DRIVING TO THE LOCAL tab and getting a gun pointed at us either) you have a telephone account right at your finger tips,and a computer for ON-LINE betting……right there at your disposal. that is modern day technology blending in with the modern day gambler(and don’t frown,when your own country is rampant with seedy casinos,so don’t use gambling on dogs as an excuse for your agenda)

    but gambling on dogs in this country,not only appeases the gambler,who don’t give a poo about going to the track,but has many beneficial off-shoots where charities benefit from dog racing.

    I don’t want to drag this out as one could go on forever about this and that and why,but the agenda and the lies you guys spread to achieve your result,is a human fault. like SCIENTOLOGY,another YANK problem tell everyone what they need to hear,and threaten everyone else who will not tag along(example…ellen DeGeneres ”ADVISES” Jessica Mauboy WHO IS AUSSIE BY THE WAY,her career will take a different path if she involves herself with the GRV CHEQUE HAND-OVER night. OBVIOUS WHAT THAT MEANT….yeah we are fair FRED aren’t we)….we actually slate that type of behaviour under BULLYING………but a YANK also knows what that is all about.

    you say the total amount of gambled money on greyhound racing in USA is down in the USA………………IT IS FLYING HERE IN AUSTRALIA……….look it up,it on a ratio basis,outperforms the througbreds.

    AND fred, HERE IN  AUSTRALIA, we have the best ”after racing facility in the world,with more being added”.we are placing the greyhound at a faster rate percentum than our own RSPCA is capable of. they,and you well know, SLAUGHTER ALL TYPES OF ANIMALS,YES SLAUGHTER,AT A HIGHER RATE THAN GREYOUND INDUSTRY EVER COULD……………how’s your own performance in FOSTERING AND REHOMING FRED? how is PETA performing with all the funds granted to them for use on saving animals……..you know that answer,it is not a pretty picture for you.

    so go ahead old boy,bring you organisation here and meet and greet the weak side of the industry,because the fight we have chosen is not only about your agenda, IT IS ABOUT OUR OWN GOVERNMENT AND ITS’ HYPOCRITICAL APPPROACH TO ITS PEOPLE……..and not only on this subject FRED….AGAIN,THE WAY THE usa RUNS,IT LIS LIKE WATCHING A RE-RUN OF ”SPONGE BOB,SQUARE PANTS………it is just that laughable.

    nice chat FRED.

  13. FredBarton PS FRED………….

    GAMBLERS DONT GIVE A POO ABOUT DOGS OR HORSES.

    OWNERS OF DOGS GIVE A DAMN…………THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE THERE FRED.

    an owner will love that dog. do not deny that based on your agenda.

    a GAMBLER will like it if it wins………call it a useless mongrel if it loses……..there is a difference FRED.

  14. John Tracey VERY TENSE JOHN INDEED JOHN.

    but one would not expect an easy path. unlike the agendas of the GREY2K and others, we realise that things need to change….cultural outlook also needs to change. but that cannot be achieved if there are two directions in the cause.

    we also know that the image needs to change. that I feel,is the easiest part of the program…as long as BIASED groups and MEDIA outlest continually do not throw spikes to flatten the tyres all the time.

    and JOHN,that wont happen,as the ABC is an indicator of BIAS OPINIONS AND JOURNALISMS……and not only on GREYHOUND SITUATION EITHER.

    and what about the lack of reporting on the so-called ERROR OR TYPO when the grave yard containing 99 dogs,overnight grew to 1000…..when questioned where is the proof,it was discovered that a TYPO by the media outlet was made.

    NO APOLGY given,and now water under the bridge.

    see,bias by those who write in there COMPANY STRUCTURES that BIAS is not allowed…………lol,lol,lol.

  15. FredBarton : Careful Fred – as a board member of a publicly accountable organisation you know your responsibilities in posting comments

    @AustralianRacingGreyhound: Hyperlinks to anti-racing advocacy and lobby groups should be discouraged. It is contrary to the spirit of this site. Expressing views is one thing but hyperlinking to sites soliciting money and donations is another thing entirely.