Pensacola Greyhound Track discontinues live dog races

Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal
Published 1:32 p.m. CT Jan. 31, 2019

The Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room is discontinuing its live greyhound racing. (Photo: Getty Images/Flickr Select)There will be no more live dog races in Pensacola.


The Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room's fall greyhound racing season ended Sept. 30, 2018, and races were supposed to resume Jan. 18, 2019. However, in November, Florida voters passed an amendment that will phase out live greyhound races statewide by 2021, so Pensacola track owner, PCI Gaming, has opted not to resume live races.

"The transition is complete and all team members impacted by the change were offered new job placement within the company," said an emailed statement from a PCI Gaming representative. "With the help of national partners, all greyhounds were successfully placed in good care."

The statement did not state how many employees or dogs were impacted, though a local greyhound adoption agency previously estimated around 300 Pensacola dogs would need permanent homes.

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The track's poker room, simulcast wagering and food and beverage operations are continuing as normal. PCI Gaming will also continue operations of Creek Entertainment Gretna, another Panhandle gaming facility that offers live quarter horse racing, poker and simulcast betting.

Parimutuel wagering — which includes dog racing, horse racing and the racquetball-like sport Jai Alai — has seen a steady decrease in both revenue and attendance over time.

According to the most recently available report from the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, wagering declined 46.6 percent over the past 10 years, and total state revenue has decreased 57.4 percent.

Since fiscal year 1931-1932 when the state first began tracking and collecting taxes on parimutuel wagering, total paid attendance has fallen from about 1.15 million to about 330,000 in fiscal year 2016-2017.




Dog Track Bracing for End of Racing


Florida voters approved a dog racing ban in November, but for now season continues as normal at the Sarasota Kennel Club, at least through May. One of 11 working tracks in the state of Florida, the facility kicked off its current season on December 14 and will continue into May. But Thomas Bowersox, director of racing, says the future from there looks more hazy.

The constitutional amendment banning the sport goes into effect at the end of 2020, and the Florida Legislature has yet to consider implementing legislation. But there are more factors at play than just the law. Bowersox says the Sarasota track today serves as home to about 700 greyhounds but that’s already a low number for the amount of activity planned each year. “Some of those are not even of the active list,” he says. “It takes 520 to run a weekend card, and it’s a little tight.”

Meanwhile, the number of people breeding racing dogs has plummeted in recent years, and with the market all but evaporating, that trend likely only accelerates from here.

“It’s also about the availability of greyhounds,” Bowersox says.

All the while, a healthy dog adoption program, Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption, still works with the Sarasota Kennel Club. Dogs typically retire by age 4 but live to about 14, and there’s always a market for the well-trained pets. The adoption organization typically works with potential owners, then comes to the track to find a good fit. But that process too winnows the number of dogs each year that are ready to run.

Passage of the constitutional amendment caught leadership at the Sarasota Kennel Club by surprise, Bowersox says. More than 69 percent of voters statewide approved the ban, well over the 60-percent threshold needed to enshrine the measure in Florida’s Constitution. Yet most public polling available predicted the amendment would fail. In Sarasota County, nearly 71 percent of voters approved the ballot question.

“I guess it’s the will of the voters,” Bowersox says.



Greyhound Racing Kicks Off Final Season in Sarasota

By Jason Lanning Manatee County 6:28 AM ET Dec. 14, 2018December 14, 2018 @6:28 AM

SARASOTA, Fla. — Friday marks the beginning of the last season of greyhound racing at the Sarasota Kennel Club.

It's 74th season will be its last.

  • Sarasota Kennel Club kicks off last greyhound racing season
  • Sarasota track ending racing a year ahead of mandate
  • Amendment 13 was approved 69 percent to 31 percent by voters
  • 11 active dog tracks in Florida
  • Yes To Amendment 13 Could Displace Thousands of Dogs

Amendment 13 to end commercial dog racing was approved 69 percent to 31 percent by Florida voters in November. That includes racing at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.

The Sarasota Kennel Club is choosing to end racing at the conclusion of this season in May. Legally it can continue racing the dogs until the end of 2020.

Kennel officials said they need time to downsize the dog racing and adapt to a poker and simulcast-only facility. In a statement, club owner Cole Collins expressed the difficulties of discontinuing racing:

"We were especially discouraged when we found out that there were people who voted to ban greyhound racing in Florida without many knowing the effects of their vote.

"Thousands of greyhounds will be up for adoption and thousands of employees around the state will be laid off."

The club will be working with Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption to help find homes for the soon-to-be retired race dogs.

The final race day in Sarasota will be May 4, 2019.

Active Florida Tracks:

Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room (Daytona Beach)

Derby Lane (St. Petersburg)

Ebro Greyhound Park (Ebro)

Mardi Gras Gaming (Hallandale)

Melbourne Greyhound Park (Melbourne)

Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound Track (Bonita Springs)

Orange Park Kennel Club (Orange Park)

Palm Beach Kennel Club (W. Palm Beach)

Pensacola Greyhound Track (Pensacola)

Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club (Longwood)

Sarasota Kennel Club (Sarasota)