The Legacy of Greyhound Racing in West Virginia

Arsenii Anderson1
Greyhound Racing in West Virginia

West Virginia greyhound racing holds a unique place in the world of sports. With decades of history, greyhound racing in West Virginia has become a controversial topic. Fans and critics constantly debate the sport’s legalities and morality.

The controversy is because of the two racetracks in West Virginia with greyhound racing. Despite growing concerns about the dogs’ welfare, these dog racing tracks continue to operate. The betting side of dog racing is making people doubt its integrity.

Betting on greyhound racing has sparked debates about the sport’s morality. Advocates argue that greyhound racing is a long-standing tradition. According to them, it provides entertainment and economic benefits to West Virginia. Opponents raise concerns about animal welfare and the potential for corruption in the betting process.

The legacy of greyhound tracks in West Virginia is complex and multifaceted. These discussions could decide if dog racing stays in the state. Let’s look at the positive and negative aspects of the sport’s ethics and law.

The Current State of Greyhound Racing in West Virginia and the US

Earlier this year, lawmakers introduced the Eliminating West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund bill to stop subsidizing greyhound racing in West Virginia. This led to a dispute between Animal Welfare advocates and the greyhound racing industry.

The Wheeling Island dog track and the Mardi Gras greyhound racing facilities are central to this controversy. Many US States have banned the sport because of animal welfare concerns and diminishing public interest. Animal welfare supporters argue that the Wheeling Island dog races and the Mardi Gras dog track contribute to the mistreatment of greyhounds.

They believe ending the subsidies will lead to the closure of these tracks, thus protecting the dogs. Greyhound racing supporters say it creates jobs and brings in money for the state. They argue that the tracks, such as Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras, focus on the safety and well-being of the greyhounds.

Cross Lanes, West Virginia, is home to Mardi Gras Casino and Resort (Tri-State Greyhound Park). This exciting destination offers various entertainment options. It includes table games, slot machines, and live Tri-State greyhound racing betting. At this WV dog tracks venue, patrons can enjoy off-track greyhound and horse racing betting.

Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack (Wheeling Downs) is a renowned venue for greyhound racing. With Wheeling Downs dog racing being a major attraction, the venue also offers Wheeling Downs live racing and off-track betting for both greyhound and horse racing. This makes it a popular destination for enthusiasts.

Several states in the US have already outlawed dog racing. A few, such as Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Alabama, Kansas, Connecticut, and Wisconsin, have yet to ban the sport, but are not practicing it. Animal welfare and the racing industry are still arguing, so what will happen to greyhound racing in the US is unclear.

How Greyhound Racing Works

Greyhound racing is a competitive sport in which a breed of dog, known for its incredible speed and agility, races around a track in pursuit of a mechanical lure. The sport has its roots in coursing, where dogs chase live prey, such as rabbits, for sport.

Modern greyhound racing uses a mechanical lure, like a stuffed animal or flag. This mechanical lure travels around the track at a consistent speed, encouraging the dogs to chase it.

Greyhound racing includes selecting dogs for races based on performance, age, and other factors. Handlers place dogs in starting boxes, ensuring a fair start. The operator sets the mechanical lure in motion as the race begins and opens the boxes. This allows the dogs to start their pursuit.

As the greyhounds chase the lure around the track, they test their speed and agility. They must navigate turns and maintain their pace while avoiding collisions with other dogs. Officials declare the first dog to cross the finish line as the winner. Spectators at greyhound races can place bets on the outcome, adding an element of excitement and competition to the event.

The Controversies Surrounding Greyhound Racing

Greyhound racing has long been a popular sport. It attracts spectators who enjoy the thrill of watching these agile dogs compete. Ethical worries about greyhounds have led to a closer look at the sport. The integrity of the racing industry has sparked controversy.

One of the primary ethical concerns is the welfare of the greyhounds themselves. Breeders and trainers breed and train racing greyhounds for their speed. Critics point out that these dogs don’t get the best living conditions, vet care, or socializing. Greyhounds can get broken bones and muscle strains in races. This can lead to euthanasia if the injuries are severe or the dog can no longer race.

A few organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and people have stepped up to support greyhounds. They focused on the racing industry. These efforts include advocating for better living conditions and implementing stricter regulations on breeding and training practices.

They promote the adoption of retired racing greyhounds. Many racing tracks have adopted injury prevention measures, such as improving track surfaces. They also provide better veterinary care for dogs. Legislative changes have also played a significant role in addressing the controversies surrounding greyhound racing.

West Virginia, for example, has seen recent changes to its laws governing the sport. West Virginia stopped funding greyhound racing in 2020. It forced the closure of two greyhound tracks in the state. Breeders and trainers met this decision with mixed reactions.

Some applauded the move as a step towards improved animal welfare. Others complained about losing jobs and revenue tied to the racing industry.

The History of Greyhound Racing in the USA

Greyhound racing’s history in the US experienced significant growth and popularity. It also faced controversy and opposition. The industry continues to develop today, with the future of greyhound racing in the country remaining uncertain

The Birth of Greyhound Racing – 1919

Greyhound racing in the US started way back in 1919. Owen Patrick Smith and the Blue Star Amusement Company built the first recognized commercial greyhound racetrack. This groundbreaking development took place in Emeryville, California. Smith’s invention of the mechanical lure revolutionized greyhound racing. It provided a more humane alternative to live lures used in traditional greyhound field coursing.

Legalization and Expansion – 1930s to 1950s

By 1930, 67 illegal dog tracks had opened across the United States, all operating. In 1931, Florida was the first state to make greyhound racing legal. Oregon and Massachusetts followed them in 1933 and 1934. During the Great Depression, Arizona also legalized dog racing in 1939. The industry continued to grow, with Colorado and South Dakota legalizing it in 1949 and Arkansas in 1957.

The Peak of Greyhound Racing – 1970s to 1980s

Greyhound racing was legalized in 12 more states through the 1970s and 1980s. It reached its peak with 18 states hosting legal and operational dog tracks. They rated dog racing as the country’s sixth most popular sporting activity at its height.

Decline and Controversy – 2000s to Today

Despite its popularity, greyhound racing faced opposition from various groups. Church groups, civic and humane organizations, and lawmakers in states like Montana never allowed the activity. Voters in California rejected two initiatives intended to legalize dog racing.

Looking to the Future of Greyhound Racing in West Virginia

Stakeholders are still determining the future of the greyhound racing industry in West Virginia and the United States. The outlook could be more hopeful, with a steady decline in popularity and only two active racetracks remaining.

The controversial and inhumane nature of the sport has contributed to its downfall. More groups and people advocate for the animals’ welfare. As public opinion shifts and regulations tighten, greyhound racing in West Virginia and the rest of the country may soon end.


Which of the US states offer legal greyhound racing?

West Virginia is the only U.S. state that currently offers legal greyhound racing. While other states may allow betting on races, both offline and online, actual racing only takes place in WV.

Is greyhound racing legal in WV?

Greyhound racing is legal in West Virginia, making it the last state in the U.S. to continue hosting this sport.

Is greyhound racing active in West Virginia?

Greyhound racing is active in West Virginia, with two operating racetracks hosting races.

Which racetracks in WV offer greyhound races?

The two racetracks in West Virginia that offer greyhound races are Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack in Wheeling and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes.

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