It hasn't been a good few weeks for dirt track sports. In early February, HBO's Luck came under heavy criticism when word spread that two horses had been euthanized during filming of the show's first few episodes. Recently, the focus has turned back to greyhound racing and those who are trying to quash the races for good. For years, that effort was limited to animal rights groups protesting the sport's inhumane nature. Now, the track owners themselves are joining in the fight.
Is it because greyhound racing is a barbaric and outdated form of animal cruelty that has helped kill many thousands of dogs over the years? Of course not. It's because no one is attending the races anymore. Thing is, these facility owners don't want to completely shut down, because they've got oodles of lucrative slot machines and other magical money-producing gizmos on the inside. They just want to stop racing, and they're willing to pay:
"There is no reason to continue spending money on a dying sport," said Bo Guidry, general manager at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino complex, which includes Bluffs Run. Caesars Entertainment, which owns the operation and was required to spend $10 million last year on dog racing, has offered to pay the state $49 million for the right to close the track.
How are the anti-racing advocates dealing with their newfound friends? Well, it's weird.
"We've been fighting the racetrack owners for years, and to suddenly have them as allies takes some getting used to," said Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K USA, a nonprofit group focused on ending greyhound racing.
Basically, only one group of people is unhappy: those who are about to be fired.
The reversal is regarded as a betrayal by those who earn their paychecks - or lose them - at the greyhound tracks. Though many of the racing supporters acknowledge that the sport cannot survive financially on its own, they argue that operations like Bluffs Run should not be allowed to abandon dog racing for greater profits after using it as justification to expand into other forms of gambling.
With only 22 greyhound tracks left in seven states, greyhound racing's days are numbered, no matter what. But that the track owners now stand to further profit from shedding the financial burden of running these races? That's some business model.