Massachusetts OKs Ban on Dog Racing

Massachusetts voters approved a ban on Greyhound racing, which will end next year.

Massachusetts voters reversed course Nov. 4 and approved a ban on Greyhound racing in the state eight years after they narrowly defeated a similar ballot question.

The measure will force the state's two dog tracks--Raynham-Taunton and Wonderland--to end live Greyhound racing by Jan. 1, 2010. It isn't known whether the facilities would remain open for simulcasting when live racing ends.

When dog racing ends, Massachusetts will have one Thoroughbred track--Suffolk Downs near Boston--and a harness track, Plainridge, near the Rhode Island border.

Supporters argued Greyhound racing is inhumane and that dog are routinely injured during races. They also said the dogs are kept in small cages for up to 20 hours a day--something the track owners denied.

The state's dog tracks had fought against the measure, saying their Greyhounds are looked after by veterinarians. They also pointed to their efforts to ensure Greyhounds are adopted once their racing days are over.

The track owners also said eliminating racing will take a financial toll on the state and force track employees to look for work in an uncertain economy. "I feel so sorry for these 1,000 people who are going to be losing their jobs in an economy that can't see another 1,000 people unemployed," said Gary Temple, general manager of Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park. "They all have families."

Temple said he hopes the track could remain open even without dog racing. The state's racetracks have pushed lawmakers unsuccessfully for years to allow them to add slot machines.

Greyhound racing nationwide has faced tough times as its one-time legions of blue-collar fans have been lured away by casinos, lotteries, online gambling, and other forms of betting. In the 1980s, there were more than 50,000 Greyhounds bred each year to race at about 60 tracks nationwide. This year, the number of dogs will drop to under 20,000, and the number of tracks has been cut almost in half.