After nearly 30 years, the dog racing track Gulf Greyhound Park has shut down operations for good, officials with the organization confirmed Tuesday, citing a decline in interest.
“We regret having to make this decision but feel that it is in the best interest of our company,” Sally Briggs, general manager of Gulf Greyhound Park, said in a prepared statement.
Calls to the park went unreturned Monday. It is unclear what role the ongoing coronavirus pandemic might have played in the park closing.
But Briggs in the statement cited a declining interest in live racing and simulcast wagering over several years as the primary reason the park would stop operations, effective Tuesday.
Officials with the park told the city the facility would still host some events in the parking lot, Mayor Bobby Hocking said.
The park’s closure shouldn’t have much of an effect on the city’s budget, Hocking said.
“All we were getting was a minute amount of liquor sales taxes,” he said. “The property should be appraised the same, as far as taxes, closed as it was open.”
Dog racing in the United States has faced a troubled path over the past few years.
Florida voters, for instance, in 2018 shut down greyhound racing. And live racing was temporarily halted at Gulf Greyhound Park in 2015 — because of increased competition from casinos, unprofitability and rising costs — but was resumed in December 2017.
Greyhound racing has drawn organized opposition by some animal rights groups, which applauded the end of live racing at Gulf Greyhound Park in 2015. At the time, the park was the last in Texas hosting live dog races on a regular basis.
“It is welcome news that gentle greyhounds will never suffer at Gulf Greyhound Park ever again,” Christine A. Dorchak, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA, said in a written statement.
“Common sense and compassion are sweeping across the country and dog racing is now illegal in 41 states. We hope that Texas lawmakers will follow this humane trend.”
The group has long lobbied for an end to greyhound racing, arguing the sport is dangerous and inherently cruel to the dogs.
The park had been in business for about 29 years, Briggs said.
Gulf Greyhound Park opened its $55 million facility covering 110 acres to more than 11,000 fans in November 1992.
During the first full year of operation, it set national records for attendance and wagering.
The overcrowded parking lot was expanded to accommodate throngs of visitors.
“Back in the day, it was really something to behold,” Hocking said, calling the closure the end of an era.
In 2000, gamblers statewide wagered $63.2 million on live dog races; the amount dwindled to $6.9 million in 2014, when Gulf Greyhound Park was the only track offering live races.