Dog Racing Died Without A Funeral
August 21, 2019 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Amendment 13 isn’t responsible for the death of dog racing. The sport has been in decline for nearly three decades. In 1991, the total amount of money gambled on dog races in the United States was $3.5 billion. By 2014, it had dropped to $500 million. . . It wasn’t until 2017 that Tom Lee, a Republican state senator from Tampa, proposed amending the state constitution to get rid of dog racing entirely. That effort became Amendment 13, and now card tables no longer need to tether their game to dog racing. The track owners got to keep the cards and get rid of the money-draining races.
posted by Carillon (37 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I was at a house party once and one of the guests brought a rescue greyhound that had retired from racing. He (she?) was well behaved but had no real interest in humans since he was not socialized with humans from a young age. He knew the other dogs and his trainers and that's it. He just kinda hung out in the yard and did his own thing.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:07 PM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Long as they left Jai alai alone .... ;)
posted by twidget at 4:54 PM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Why did jai alai end up in the same category as horse and dog racing? Like, "We will legalize betting on quadrupeds that move fast, and also on this one obscure Basque sport we imported" does not seem like a coherent policy proposal.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:53 PM on August 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

Looks like its because jai alai uses parimutuel betting, unlike most sports? The law appears to be based on that style of betting, rather than on the type of sport.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:59 PM on August 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

The secret to greyhounds is that they are actually large cats wearing dog costumes on stilts.
posted by rodlymight at 6:01 PM on August 21, 2019 [29 favorites]

The secret to greyhounds is that they are actually large cats wearing dog costumes on stilts.

I have found this to be not untrue.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:12 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

My mother's rescue greyhound was the sweetest dog you could ever meet, but she was as dumb as a box of hair. There's not much room for a brain in those aerodynamic little skulls.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:27 PM on August 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

Which is strange because it seems a lot of small dogs have a lot of personality. And not so obviously dumb. Seems like selection for other things going on as well.
posted by aleph at 6:56 PM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of sight hounds are this way. Afghans and Salukis, for other examples. They are wired for a job, and can't really be bothered with what people are up to.

I worked with pointers and vizalas for a while, and praise wasn't a big deal to them. Just, "where's the bird?"
posted by Windopaene at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

...which doesn't make them dumb, necessarily, just less biddable.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Isn't most sports betting these days pari-mutual? I stood in the sports betting areas in a big Vegas casino recently (which resembled what I'd imagine the NORAD command center looks like on Superbowl Sunday) but I couldn't make heads or tails of what was being shown. It looked like the odds were constantly fluctuating, though, which you'd expect with pari-mutual betting.

Anyway, good on Florida. Sort of. The forced linkage between table gambling and dog tracks--which kept dog racing around, basically subsidized by other gambling activities--is so blitheringly stupid (why not just limit the number of facilities, if you want to limit the number of facilities? do medallions, auction off licenses, or literally any other scheme), that it really amounts to finally solving a problem that the state created itself.

“When there’s no more racing,” Clark said, “Florida can kiss my ass. And I love it down here, but if there’s no live dog racing, what’s the point?” He said he’d go to the five remaining states where dog racing was still legal. “Birmingham, West Virginia, Arkansas…I’m not being prejudiced, but that’s three back-ass states.”
"Back-ass states"? Surrrre, that's what he said. I can imagine Florida will be collectively weeping for its loss of this fine gentleman.

OTOH, the... less-than-classy nature of dog racing probably is for the best, in that it helped ensure the sport wound down of its own accord before Florida voters finally got around to pulling the plug. I suspect it would be more difficult to find homes for the remaining dogs if there were as many of them as when the 'sport' was at its peak. The trainers do have a point that horse racing is probably just as brutal and immoral, but continues because of the money (and monied people) involved in it. But perhaps the end of dog racing can provide a blueprint for horse racing: when the only people participating are shit-for-brains woodchucks who think there's a valid comparison between the Humane Society and ISIS, well, you know the battle is coming to a close and you've almost won. If betting on horses and going to horse races becomes as socially unacceptable for people with money to burn as going to dog tracks became, they'll go the same way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:23 PM on August 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

Wow, that linked article from the FPP was incredibly well written. Great piece of journalism that manages to capture some shimmers of the fractal that is this entire situation for so many different kinds of people living various sorts of lives. I hadn't really thought much about how a law that bans a thing might mean a class of worker would just... suddenly nothing.

As independent contractors in Florida, are they able to receive whatever unemployment benefits exist there? That's really awful! I have a friend who is sort of vaguely involved with greyhound rescue stuff and he says across the system this is going to be a problem.

Great nuance and really informative. So much to consider!

I'm really glad to have read this. Thanks so much for posting!
posted by hippybear at 7:57 PM on August 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's an interesting article, I've no real connection to greyhounds or racing, but thought it was a fascinating insight into the end of a subculture.
posted by Carillon at 8:04 PM on August 21, 2019

Oh boy, this is where I get to plug my dog Garrus's instagram and encourage you all to adopt a greyhound!

First thing to remember about anything anyone says about dog breeds is that they're tendencies, not rules. They'll tell you that greyhounds aren't particularly social. Either they don't like humans, or maybe they only like their family. Well, Garrus loves meeting friends. He's always super excited when someone comes over, even strangers!

Santa's Little Helper on the Simpsons is a good example, though. They're highly energetic when active, and otherwise lazy as any cat.

You will want to have the ability to take them out on walks (and runs/jogs if you can!), but they're honestly ideal apartment dogs, despite their size.

And to a degree, they come pre-trained. They've never learned bad behaviors like jumping on people, they know commands like "no," they're used to a schedule. It took some time for Garrus to learn things like "sit," and the off-track world is still new to him (we've had him 4 months, he's just turned 3 years), but he's not as dumb as advertised. He is somewhat incurious and a bit cowardly, but in some respects it's been good, because he doesn't try getting into every last cabinet in our place.

We'll definitely be adopting a second one soon enough. These dogs are absolute sweethearts and are very good for someone looking for a lower-energy pet.
posted by explosion at 8:36 PM on August 21, 2019 [24 favorites]

I'd pet ur dog.

That's a good dog
posted by Windopaene at 9:50 PM on August 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Honestly, I can't see how anyone could possibly have been in favor of keeping dog tracks around in Florida. Maybe there was something more to it in the past, but it has become a completely sad affair of late.

A couple of years back a yearly event I usually attend was held at a nearby casino/dog track (they go wherever they can get a good rate) and they happened to be running dogs one of the nights. The event space included access to a section of the stands so smokers could do their thing or people could sit down a while and there was basically nobody there for the races. At first, I thought it was just a practice session, but no, they just run the races with a kind of somber silence hanging over the place. Even the worst bingo night I've ever seen in my life was a more lively experience.

Were it not for the people who will find themselves out of work I'd feel nothing but relief that the races are finally ending.
posted by wierdo at 10:12 PM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

The five US states that allow dog racing are Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. Fifteen other states allow betting on races in those five states. So the spectatorless races that wierdo saw were probably run for the benefit of gamblers somewhere else.

I'm not really sad for people whose jobs in dog racing are disappearing. It's exploiting the animals, which is why it's outlawed in so many places, and the reasons people give for working in that industry are no better than the reasons given for working in any other exploitive industry. The writing has been on the wall for many years, and anyone could see that those jobs were going away.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:31 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Here in the UK, dog racing is also in heavy decline - I live a stone's throw from a stadium that closed two years ago. One of the reasons for dog racing's previous popularity was that it was practically the only thing ordinary people could bet on - originally betting shops were not allowed until 1970 (ish, don't quote me on that) so the only things you could bet on were live events whilst you were there - for the people of the inner cities, horse racing was way out in the countryside but dog track racing was available and accessible for all, and also not subject to restrictive casino's which were primarily for the upper classes.

Dog racing is slowly disappearing in the UK, but it's certainly not outlawed, and I haven't seen a huge push from anyone to get it banned here either, it's simply that with the rise of betting shops and internet betting, dog racing, perhaps unfairly labelled as working class, is starting to vanish, with an example of there not a single dog track in London any more following the purchase of Plough Lane by Wimbledon AFC.

As I live very close to the dog track, I did go numerous times - it was generally a fun evening out where betting on the Tote the minimum bet was a pound (later two pounds) and the bars were well staffed and relatively inexpensive, meaning that you'd only be spending a little bit more than if you just went down the pub, and if you were lucky, you'd not spend anything at all. Generally when I went down there with friends we were all hopeless at even predicting the favourite, let alone the winner, but with the small pool of racers you would be unlucky if you had no wins on an evening. Generally, I don't gamble at all, except at live events for small stakes where it's just a bit of fun and really doesn't matter whether you win or lose.

Dog racing will I think be missed, but it's decline in the UK is inevitable, though I'm not sure it will ever go completely extinct here.
posted by BigCalm at 4:03 AM on August 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

He wouldn’t tell me how much he got for the land, just that it was a “good number.” I looked up the value myself through the county property appraiser, and they assessed it at over $8 million.
One guy walks away with $8 million, everybody else walks away broke. Capitalism, eh?
posted by clawsoon at 4:33 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by DJZouke at 5:18 AM on August 22, 2019

What does the whole thing about 'card tables' mean?
posted by signal at 6:11 AM on August 22, 2019

The dog racing was kept up just to justify the poker tables, which was where the real money was. This is explained in the article.
posted by SPrintF at 6:16 AM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's mentioned, not explained. What's the link between the two things?
posted by signal at 6:21 AM on August 22, 2019

You can’t legally gamble anywhere else.

The track in West Memphis, AR (which is more complicated to get to from Memphis than they’d probably like) got slot machines a few years ago and just got table games. The casino is way bigger than the dog track already, and is cutting in to Tunica (also farther from Memphis than you’d think it should be).
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:26 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh boy, this is where I get to plug my dog Garrus's instagram and encourage you all to adopt a greyhound!

If anything could get me to adopt a dog, it would be naming one after Garrus Vakarian.

but now I have to come up with a name that's just as good.


posted by Halloween Jack at 6:32 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

The workers will blame activists and "PETA-heads" for their current state, but not the millionaire owner who exploited their labor and their passion for 30 years while scamming them with contractual work and a points-based salary contingent on winning.
posted by codacorolla at 7:21 AM on August 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

The secret to greyhounds is that they are actually large cats wearing dog costumes on stilts.

I was really disappointed that this was not posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit.
posted by suetanvil at 7:28 AM on August 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Plugging my greyhound's instagram too!

Roxy's my third greyhound, and there's nothing like having a string of dogs of the same breed to remind you of the variability within individuals. Roxy is actually pretty smart; she picked up "go lay down" in days, understands to go where I'm pointing her, and is recently figuring out "sit," all with very little actual training from me. She also is my first greyhound to get bored and destructive when we aren't home; she's chewed the corners of a dining table, tv stand, windowsill, and bedside table, and destroyed a few other items as well.

We also joke that she is fueled by love. Far from being aloof or a loner, we can barely get her to eat her food but nothing makes her happier than cuddling with us or a stranger (who instantly becomes a new best friend). We had a large housewarming party a couple weeks ago and she was happy as a clam, going from person to person to get attention for HOURS. I've never seen her awake for that many hours in a row.

As you can see from her Instagram, we just adopted two cats and she is mostly scared of them.

The racing industry has many flaws (as does the pet industry and the AKC purebred industry), but I will mourn the loss of this wonderful, weird, alien breed once they are gone. (AKC greyhounds are very rare, and bred for different purpose so they don't share all of the same qualities of the racing dogs, not that I would buy a purebred dog anyway.)
posted by misskaz at 7:29 AM on August 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

A good step but far too many forms of gambling are still left legal. Unfortunately, this step was taken for bad reasons and ending gambling isn't even a consideration.

"It wasn’t until 2017 that Tom Lee, a Republican state senator from Tampa, proposed amending the state constitution to get rid of dog racing entirely. That effort became Amendment 13, and now card tables no longer need to tether their game to dog racing. The track owners got to keep the cards and get rid of the money-draining races."

It's not even about the dogs or anything but profits.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2019

If anything could get me to adopt a dog, it would be naming one after Garrus Vakarian.

I'd feel weird naming a dog after my make-believe boyfriend.
posted by asperity at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, this step was taken for bad reasons and ending gambling isn't even a consideration.

Well, yeah. Ending gambling was never on the table.

And as the article mentions, previous attempts at doing away with dog racing always failed when someone decided to try and use the bill as a vehicle for some other project (including expanding gambling; the state seems very far from prohibiting it). This is apparently one of the reasons why it took an amendment to the state constitution to untie dog racing from table games.

Whether gambling in general should be legal is an entirely different question from whether or not dog racing ought to be allowed. There's no shortage of stuff to bet on, if you are so inclined; animals don't need to be bred and live their entire lives just to act as a source of randomness for people to wager on; a reverse-biased diode or a bucket of bingo balls could do the job just fine.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

You posted this a day early! Saint Guinefort's day is today, August 22nd.
posted by vespabelle at 12:17 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

What's the link between the two things?

There are/were some jurisdictions that wanted to expand gambling licenses. The existing gambling providers in the state (e.g. horse tracks, OTB parlors, dog tracks, jai alai) complained that allowing new casinos would kill them.

So the lobbyists did their thing and the laws were written to allow "table gaming" (roulette, blackjack, poker, sometimes craps, sometimes slots, or a selection of these) to be added to venues that already had the parimutuel gaming in place. Dover Downs in Delaware is an example of this.

Seems in the context of the article that they are calling it "card tables" - so blackjack and maybe some forms of poker?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2019

I'm pretty sure they use "card rooms" to mean poker-only rooms. No slots, no casino games (blackjack, etc.). Florida is fast becoming a hub of live poker since they liberalized some very poor rules they enforced in the past, and rooms like the one at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and bestbet Jacksonville are well known in the industry.

The distinction is that in poker, you're not playing against the house - you're playing against the other players at the table with the house taking a rake (cut).

There are full-scale casinos in Florida as well, but these are owned and managed by the Seminoles and are hosted on Seminole Tribal lands. This includes the Hard Rock casinos. That being said, Florida has a long history with gambling of various kinds, usually in the past very very small stakes, and there are all kinds of small outliers in addition to the mainstream.
posted by mikel at 1:59 PM on August 22, 2019

The distinction is that in poker, you're not playing against the house - you're playing against the other players at the table with the house taking a rake (cut).

Which is what it has in common with dog racing, right? — that in both, you're competing against other players for a pot you've all chipped in to, and there's no outside person setting odds or setting a spread?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:23 PM on August 22, 2019

Florida pari-mutuel outlets have had "slots" for quite a few years now. Legally, they were/are not slot machines, but they're slot machines whether they are wedged into the definition of electronic bingo or video poker or whatever.

It wasn't until this century that Arkansas had any gambling except for the horse races at Oaklawn in Hot Springs during their very limited season. It was actually the threat of Oaklawn closing that got the legislature to allow them to offer other gaming opportunities.

Weekend outings to the races with dapper hats and parasols have long been a thing in Little Rock among those who fancy themselves aristocrats, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion it would happen eventually.
posted by wierdo at 4:20 PM on August 22, 2019

(Getting further away from topic, but I've seen blackjack tables run with a 3rd-party bank, so that the house just runs the game. I don't remember a rake, so I'm not sure how they make their money)
posted by Horselover Fat at 2:49 PM on August 23, 2019

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