Bill would let Tucson dog park stop racing, continue off-track betting

2013-01-29T00:00:00Z Bill would let Tucson dog park stop racing, continue off-track bettingDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tucson Greyhound Park could end all live racing at the track and still keep its doors open if a proposed change in state law makes its way through the Legislature.

At issue is a proposal to allow racetracks in counties with populations of 1.5 million or less to have simulcast betting without requiring the track to hold live races. Currently, only tracks in counties with 500,000 people or less can hold simulcast betting without offering live races. Tracks in larger counties must race a minimum of 100 days to qualify for off-track betting.

Greyhound Park CEO Tom Taylor said he is seeking the change from the Legislature as a backup plan so the track could remain open if business continues to plummet.

"We don't want to quit (live racing), but when you have a certain number of factors out of your control, you need to have a contingency plan," Taylor said. "The only thing that is going to protect us is to not have live racing."

With a ban on steroid injections for greyhounds and the park's subsequent decision to race only male dogs, the park was having trouble filling its race schedule, so Taylor recently trimmed the number of race days to four a week.

"Dogs are always coming in and out. But more dogs have been going out than dogs coming in," he said. "We lose money if we run less than 13 races a day. So we said we need to cut back on racing days" to reach that number.

The plans for now are to continue live racing at the track, at 2601 S. Third Ave., Taylor said. He just hopes the Legislature gives the track an opportunity to stay afloat with off-track betting if it ever has to shut down its live racing.

At least one critic of dog racing is behind Taylor on this.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said he would be glad to join Taylor and help push the change through the Legislature.

"I reached out in good faith to say if you want to partner in support of this bill, I'm all for it," said Kozachik, who spearheaded the move to ban steroid injections in Tucson. "It can be a way for us to put a bow on what was a controversial issue last year."

Kozachik said he has sent a letter to Taylor offering his services but has yet to hear a reply.

Susan Netboy, president of the Greyhound Protection League, issued a prepared statement on the track's legislative proposal, calling it just the latest sign the days of live racing there are nearing an end.

While the statement took no position on the legislation, Netboy said the proposal does elevate animal welfare concerns.

"This legislation would have major consequences for the fate of Arizona's racing greyhounds, and we want to ensure that all the dogs who will be affected have an opportunity for adoption," she said.

"We don't want to quit (live racing), but when you have a certain number of factors out of your control, you need to have a contingency plan."

Tom Taylor, CEO of Tucson Greyhound Park

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at ddaronco@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.

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