On Oct. 17, the Arkansas Racing Commission unanimously approved a plan by Southland Casino to end greyhound racing by Dec. 31, 2022, which will ultimately end all greyhound racing in the state.
Owned by Delaware North, Southland Casino Racing began conducting races in 1956 in West Memphis, and it is Arkansas’ only remaining greyhound track.
Southland and the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association, which includes 16 members who own and operate greyhound kennels at the racetrack, reached an agreement on how to phase out dog racing in the state.
Robert Thorne, the president of the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association, commented on the matter.
“We want to avoid a disruptive and abrupt end to live racing to the benefit of all parties, including everyone who has a job at stake,” Thorne said in a statement documented by the New York Times.
Between big casino gaming and the shift of public perception on the subject matter, the popularity of greyhound racing has declined considerably throughout the U.S. While dog racing is still legal in nine states, just five of them have active tracks, including Arkansas.
Florida voters passed a ban in 2018 to end greyhound racing by 2021, leaving many in the industry stunned. A similar initiative would likely pass in Arkansas, so Southland Casino decided to be proactive.
“If the question of ending live greyhound racing in Arkansas is put before the voters, there is a significant possibility that it would be approved,” Southland’s proposal said, the New York Times reported.
Southland Casino will start phasing out greyhound racing beginning next year, shifting from 6,656 races this year to 4,992 in 2020. The phase-out will continue in 2021 and 2022, dropping races down to 3,994 and 2,662 respectively. The three-year period will provide enough time for the 1,200 greyhounds that race on the Southland track to be adopted.
While many people are concerned that there won’t be enough homes for the dogs, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Vicki Cohen, director of Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option, stated that they don’t have enough greyhounds to go around, according to a report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock.
Part of Southland’s plan, approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission, includes the approval of a petition that no longer requires them to hold live greyhound racing in order to keep its casino license.
In January 2019, it was announced that Southland Casino would receive a $250 million expansion. The expansion includes a 113,000-square-foot casino complex, adding 400 slots to their existing 2,000, and 60 live table games. The new Southland Casino complex is expected to be completed by summer 2020.
While one avenue for betting closes others have opened fortunately in Arkansas, as the state has brought sports betting action into the fold recently.