Why Did Greyhound Racing Die Out?

By in Sports & Betting on
6 Minute Read
Greyhound Racing Dogs Track Logo

Greyhound racing is hanging on by a thread in the United States. Many states have banned this sport, while only a few have active tracks.

More recently, Florida voted to prohibit greyhound races. This decision was a major blow when considering that the Sunshine State was once a major hub of greyhound racing.

Why is this once-popular sport now on the brink of extinction? You can find out by reading about where greyhound racing started and the factors that are leading to its demise.

Greyhound Racing’s Rise to Prominence

The earliest greyhound races were held in England in the late 1800s. The sport didn’t really take off, though, until 1912.

This year saw the English roll out oval tracks and an artificial hare. Still to this day, “automatic rabbits” are a key to this style of racing.

American races began running at the grandstand in Emeryville, California in 1919. Although the old track would quickly be replaced, its location marked the sport’s beginnings in the US.

The introduction of pari-mutuel betting marked another landmark for the sport. Soon, many people filled greyhound tracks to watch and bet on the action.

Both America and the UK saw greyhound racing reach its peak in the years following World War II. This popularity rise continued well into the 1950s.

Millions of Americans attended races every year at this point. Hundreds of millions of dollars were also being wagered on the sport on an annual basis.

During this era, greyhound racing was one of the most-popular sports in America. It rivaled basketball, hockey, and horse racing at the time.

Where Is Greyhound Racing at Today?

Greyhound racing began losing some of its luster in the 1960s. Horse racing gained more steam around this time and eventually grabbed television deals.

Meanwhile, the top brass in greyhound racing rejected major TV deals. They didn’t feel that people would watch races on TV when they could, instead, visit the track and place bets.

This was a severe miscalculation by the sport’s top figureheads. TV eventually fueled horse racing to new heights while greyhound racing was, and still is, left in the dust.

The sport really fell out of favor with the American public around the turn of the millennium. Greyhound betting revenue dropped by two-thirds from 2000 to 2010.

Few States Allow Greyhound Races

State politicians are often interested in using gambling to boost tax revenue. Of course, they’re only interested in relevant forms of gambling.

Hound racing doesn’t fit this bill. 41 states have completely outlawed it. Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon, and Kansas allow the sport but don’t feature any tracks.

Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia are the sole states that actually feature real races. Florida was previously part of this list, but, as mentioned before, recently banned the sport.

What Factors Have Destroyed the Greyhound Racing Industry?

It’s obvious that dog racing is no longer the same draw it was 5-7 decades ago. Several reasons are to blame for this, including the following.

The Dogs Suffer Terrible Injuries

Dog’s have always been man’s best friend. However, people once looked past this notion in favor of entertainment.
Greyhound Dog Race
Gamblers weren’t so worried about greyhounds’ well-being so long as they got to place bets. This feeling no longer exists.

Many people cringe upon hearing the type of injuries that these dogs suffer. Broken legs and spines are all too common in this hard-driving sport.

Hounds Who Can’t Race Are Sometimes Killed

The UK has done a nice job of finding places for retired racing dogs to live. America, on the other hand, hasn’t always made such a great effort at this.

In some cases, hounds are merely killed off when they can’t race. The most-extreme example happened in Alabama, when a woman paid somebody $10 for each dog they killed and buried.

Luckily, not every case is this horrific. But the fact remains that retired American racing dogs are sometimes murdered.

Animal Rights Activists Fight Vehemently Against Greyhound Racing

The Humane Society and PETA have made it their mission to completely stop greyhound racing. They cite examples, such as the Alabama incident, as reasons why the sport should be abolished.
Greyhound Dog Caged
Activists also point to less-grisly, but still troublesome, episodes where racetracks close down and leave hundreds of dogs homeless.

PETA and the Humane Society have been very successful in their efforts. They’ve been at the forefront of getting many tracks shut down.

Not Many States Offer This Sport

Earlier, I highlighted the small number of states that still feature live hound races. Only five remain that host these events.

Of this group, Texas is the only one that features a significant population. Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, and West Virginia round out the rest.

Combined, these five states don’t even add up to 10% of the US population. Most Americans don’t live anywhere close to a greyhound track.

Many Other Forms of Gambling Are Available

Hound racing had an early mover advantage in the American gambling market. It was one of the first sports to feature live betting.

Of course, that was ninety years ago. The landscape of US sports betting has changed dramatically since then.

You can now wager on casino games, lotteries, sports, esports, politics, and even the Oscars. Greyhound betting has been lost in this shuffle for decades.

Greyhound Racing Gets Very Little News Coverage

Again, the greyhound racing powers that be rejected major TV network deals. They didn’t have the foresight to see what television could mean for the sport.

They wanted to keep people coming to and betting at the racetracks. These figureheads also didn’t see the vision that TV brought to the table.

Horse Racing Is Much More Popular

Horse racing is in the same boat as greyhound racing in that its popularity is fading. The sport is also dealing with concerns over ponies’ health and the injuries they suffer.
Horse Racing Track Jockey
Nevertheless, horse racing is still in far better shape than hound racing. It still has major TV deals in place and features major events like the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

American sports fans don’t have much capacity for animal races these days. Racehorses fill what little room there is left in this market.

The Fan Base Is Aging

You’re not going to find any hipsters at a greyhound track. Instead, the usual clientele is men ranging between the ages of 55 and 70.

Most of these fans grew up visiting the tracks with their fathers and developed an affinity for dog racing back then. They continue watching the sport due to both long-time interest and nostalgia.

This fan base isn’t getting any younger, though. The current fans that move into nursing homes aren’t going to be replaced.

Is There Any Chance for This Sport to Regain Glory?

Greyhound racing is well over sixty years removed from its previous glory days. But is there any chance for it to make a comeback?

Absolutely not! Hound racing enjoyed its time in the sun from the 1930s to 50s. It came around at a point when gambling on sports was fairly new and few options existed.

People were willing to bet on anything back in these days—even something that involved dogs chasing a metal rabbit around a track.

The sport still exists to some degree. However, greyhound racing has long since been surpassed by many other sports.

It’s not even close to being the most popular option in its respective category. Horse racing dominates the animal sector in terms of viewership, betting, and TV deals.

The dog racing industry can’t even think about reclaiming glory. It can only hope to not completely fade away over the coming years.

Can You Still Bet on Greyhound Racing?

Based on what I’ve covered so far, your chances of gambling on dog racing seem bleak. Nevertheless, you can still legally wager on this sport from almost anywhere.

Greyhound racing is exempt from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The UIGEA doesn’t completely ban online betting, but it makes life difficult for unlicensed sportsbooks.

Meanwhile, bookmakers and simulcast facilities that specialize in greyhound and horse racing (also exempt) can do so with ease.

You can also bet on greyhound racing with offshore sportsbooks. The UIGEA was created to stop/slow down offshore operators. Nevertheless, these bookmakers still serve American customers in some states.

Conclusion

Greyhound racing has an interesting history that dates back to the late eighteenth century. But “history” may be the appropriate word for this sport now.

Most states have banned hound racing. Over half the states that do allow it don’t even feature an active racetrack.

Combine this with an aging fanbase, and you have a sport that doesn’t feature much of a shelf life. By my estimates, greyhound racing will be finished within 10-20 years.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

View all posts by Michael Stevens
Email the author at: [email protected]