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Timing Wrong On Dog Racing

After years of working with some success in the states to end greyhound racing in the United States, the activity’s foes have gone to Washington. There, a bill to prohibit betting on dog racing has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

It seems to have attracted little support, however. Why? At least in some measure, because lawmakers are sensitive to the enormous damage a ban on greyhound race betting would do to some local economies. Foes of the practice understand that if gambling on it is banned, the sport would collapse.

It already has in most of the country. Reportedly, only three states — West Virginia, Iowa and Texas — have not enacted bans on greyhound racing. Arkansas still allows it, but with a phaseout plan targeted to 2022.

Led by the GREY2K organization, efforts to shut down our state’s two dog racing tracks — in Wheeling and Cross Lanes — have failed. West Virginia lawmakers considered eliminating state support for greyhound racing, but decided against it.

That happened after legislators reflected upon the harm such action would cause to local economies — and hundreds of working West Virginians.

A 2014 study by West Virginia University found that greyhound racing in the state employs about 1,700 people directly. Hundreds more rely on the two tracks indirectly. And, WVU found, dog tracks contribute more than $31 million a year to the economies of Ohio and Kanawha counties.

Wiping all that away would be a bad move at any time. Now, with both the Wheeling and Cross Lanes tracks suffering from COVID-19 and tens of thousands of West Virginians laid off from other jobs for the same reason, shutting the tracks down could be disastrous. That will be so for years to come, as the economy recovers from epidemic-related damage.

Lawmakers in Washington are right: Now is not the time to ban gambling on dog racing.

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