LA MARQUE

Like most people, Lynn Bunn was fixated on Nov. 6 election results.

Unlike most people, it wasn’t O’Rourke vs. Cruz that caught her attention, nor any of the national politics that captivated so much of the country.

Rather, Bunn, a Galveston resident, was fixated on a constitutional amendment in Florida, which would ban greyhound racing across the Sunshine State.

Voters passed the ban by a gigantic margin, 69 percent to 31 percent. But it didn’t leave Bunn, who owns two retired greyhounds, Penelope Garcia and Remington, with happy feelings.

“My heart sunk,” she said.

The Florida decision will close 11 greyhound tracks in that state. That amounts to almost two-thirds of the greyhound tracks in the United States. It could very well be a death-knell for the industry, which has seen 50 tracks close nationwide over the past 30 years.

Among the businesses that could now be in jeopardy is La Marque’s Gulf Greyhound Park, 1000 FM 2004, a 26-year-old track that has faced financial headwinds in recent years as the sport’s fan base shrank and objections to it grew.

The amendment was a victory for groups that have advocated for closing tracks for decades, with arguments the sport is inherently abusive to the animals.

The Florida campaign against greyhound racing was led by advocacy groups like Grey2K USA Worldwide, which has pushed for a nationwide ban on the activity for years.

Christine Dorchak, the group’s president and one of the drafters of Amendment 13 on Florida ballots, said passage of the ban was the organization’s signature victory after 20 years of work.

After Florida, the organization will continue to pursue bans in other states, Dorchak said. Even without that, the closure of Florida tracks means tracks like Gulf Greyhound will have fewer races to simulcast when they don’t have live racing, she said.

That will hurt the bottom lines of tracks around the country and in Texas, where simulcasting has grown to be the main revenue stream, she said.

“It’s clear that Texas racing depends on Florida simulcasting,” she said. “With the phase out of live dog racing in Florida, this will leave Texas in quite the precarious position.”

Three greyhound tracks are left in Texas, including La Marque’s Gulf Greyhound Park, which last year restarted dog racing after relying on simulcasting alone for two years as state regulators revamped the way races could be run in Texas.

Under the agreement, Gulf Greyhound rotates its races with tracks in Harlingen and Corpus Christi. Racing in Galveston County is scheduled to restart in December and continue through February, said Sally Briggs, general manager of Gulf Greyhound Park.

Briggs said she didn’t think the Florida ban would immediately affect the events of the Texas track. After last week’s vote, she checked with tracks in Florida and confirmed most don’t plan to close until 2020 at the earliest, which means simulcasts will continue at Gulf Greyhound until then, she said.

“There are no impacts on us right now,” Briggs said Tuesday.

Briggs was less sure about the future. The track will stay open — but has no confirmed race dates after February. The track will continue to look for alternative revenue streams such as renting its parking lot for special events, she said.

“Who knows what the state is going to do,” Briggs said. “We’ll be open for simulcast and we have a lot of things in the parking lot. We’ll keep on going with all of that.”

The vote and the campaign behind it caused passionate feelings. While animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States supported it, some greyhound-specific groups allied with the racing industry to defend the tracks and their continued existence.

Those groups include people like Bunn, who sees the racing industry as a kind of quality control mechanism for the breed they love, and argues modern racetrack policies differ from the days when animals were killed in larger numbers.

Bunn’s dogs, which she adopted through a Webster group, benefited from being raised among other greyhounds and within the racing industry, she said. The dogs are known for being fast runners, but also for their gentle personalities.

With the passage of the Florida ban, she worried that people would continue to breed greyhounds, but now have nowhere to put them, which would degrade the breed, she said.

“I think my biggest concern, and I know a lot of people share this, is that it’s going to represent a totally different dog,” Bunn said. “They are what they are because of what they do.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Senior Reporter

(9) comments

Richard Armstrong

Dog Racing should go....it's time has passed.

Lynn Bunn

I encourage everyone to educate yourselves on the Greyhound Racing of Today. www.greyhoundadopters4racing.com has some wonderful articles

Ron Binkley

There's for just voting greyhound racing out. This affects thousands of jobs and lots of property.

Lynn Bunn

Just curious, by the sound of your comment, you are in favor of keeping greyhound racing. Why would you then vote to end it in the poll? Voting No meant you wanted to keep it...

Rusty Schroeder

Gulf Greyhound was the industry jewel when it opened, and sustained that level for many years. Then came the casinos in Lake Charles and for a lesser matter Delta Downs. GGP went through bankruptcy of it's ownership group as well as dwindling attendance, the big name kennels left and pm wagering was keeping it alive. Galveston was against any type of casino gambling at the racetrack unless they could get the same benefit for their hotels. GGP is slowly dying a cruel death, there are crawfish boils and car racing events held on it's parking lot in the warmer months. And the Festival of Lights graces it's parking grounds during the winter months, with replica dinosaurs amongst the tents, while an aging one with no use sit's idly in the foreground. If slot machines were allowed in GGP, the racing and kennels would return, the place would be packed and busy with excitement. But that's not happening anytime soon, it should, but it's not. What you have is a structure built for dog racing that is setting on a desired piece of property gaining little tax base for a city that could use it. GGP will be dozed one day, because there really are no uses for it that would economically be feasible. I would like to see it return to the glory days of the 90's, a place to grab a meal and watch a few exciting races during the week. But I'm dreaming now, kinda like dinosaurs in a Christmas lights carnival.

George Croix

yep.
When a Hazardous Materials Disposal day on the facility property draws a bigger crowd than the normal venue, time is slipping away......

Martin Connor

So true!!! Great post Rusty..

Stephanie Lang

Gambling and tourism and industry and job opportunities and added property value are great things for the community and its economy, no doubt. Racing DOGS for money, however, is not great for the dogs and as a result Texas should follow Florida's lead and ban it. Period.
Hopefully, the track can be re-purposed into an entertainment facility - whether it's casino style or not.

Rusty Schroeder

How do you feel about racing HORSES for money? I would like to hear your ideas on re-purposing it into a entertainment facility. Have you ever been inside GGP or seen how it is built? It's built for viewing, behind glass windows. It would be a great concert venue if not for the sound-proof glass and the damage the elements would do to the interior. It was built for viewing dog racing, period.

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