Decline Of Greyhound Racing In the UK & Online Revival
In this article, we look at the reasons why dog racing has seen a continuing decline in popularity but also look at the possible revival thanks to in play betting and live streaming. We have also taken a look at the most memorable moments of Greyhound racing history and some animal welfare controversies.
UK History Of Greyhound Racing
The modern greyhound racing is the new version of the sport called ‘coursing’ where two or more dogs were chasing and killing a prey (usually a hare or rabbit). It was pretty common amongst working classes with some illegal betting that was taking place too. The first coursing meeting took place in Norfolk in the year 1776.
In 1876 in a meeting held in Hendon in London, the first artificial hare was introduced. 6 dogs were chasing it over 400 yards. The new version of the sport didn’t have great success in the UK, but it had in the USA.
Belle Vue Stadium In Manchester
The sport came back to Britain in 1920’s where Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester hosted the first oval dog racing circuit. By the following year, there were around 40 tracks opened across the UK.
Dog racing was more accessible to the working classes then horse racing, and this is how they became so successful. Also, races were held at night and in the evening close to major cities, and this was part of socialising of the working class.
In the 1930’s the Tote was introduced to greyhound racing which was great fun also considering that off-track gambling was still illegal. It was however only after the WWII that the sport peaked in attendance and popularity: the dark days were over and the working class had for the first time a decent disposable income to use. In 1946 the sport had a record of 34 million paying punters!
The Decline Of Dog Racing In Britain
Dog racing continued to be popular until 1960 when the Betting and Gaming Act legalised off-course gambling. New forms of entertainment were now available, and the greyhound racing started his decline as it was looked at their dads’ generation sport.
The sport also started to be challenged by animal welfare groups. Regulations were not great, and some animals were treated with cruelty by owners.
Nowadays the situation has completely changed and licensed greyhound racing courses are fully regulated, and owners are going straight to prison and will get massive fines if they act with cruelty against dogs.
UK Greyhound Track Closures
Due to the decline in attendance over the last decades, lots of greyhound tracks around the countries have shut. Some of those tracks were around industrial areas that have been redeveloped or abandoned and have also suffered from this. In 1946 there were 77 licensed tracked in the UK while today there are only 23 still operating (plus 5 flapper tracks). Lots of bookies don’t even show up to tracks to collect bets since attendance is under 2 million paying visitors.
Bookmakers Might Have Saved The Sport
The bookmakers, however, might have saved the sport. With the arrival of the digital era lots of betting sites started to live stream races and greyhound was one of the sport that responded well: it is fast, and punters can bet everywhere they are. Coral, for example, has bought the Romford track and also have taken over the Brighton and Hove stadium. Attendance is still low, but betting sites do not case as they can sell streaming to their online punters. This is probably the best shot to avoid the complete closure of tracks.
The Revival Of UK Greyhound Racing Thanks To Online Betting
The sport has been enjoying great success online in recent times and this it is keeping it going. Thousands of players can now bet comfortably and watch any greyhound races: it is interesting to see that today more money is being bet on dog races than at any time in the history of this sport. Every year the turnover is £2.6 billion which is over 70,000 races. There are 7,000 jobs directly linked to the sport, and more then £1.5 billion is from off-course betting.
The fact that top bookmakers have decided to acquire dog tracks so that they can stream races live it is a perfect sign that things can continue and that the industry can recover. It is estimated that betting sites are making more than £250,000,000 every year in profit from this sport so it is unlikely greyhound racing will go unless some politicians will decide to ban it for other reasons.
If you are interested in knowing more about which are the best bookmakers for betting on greyhound or where you can stream dog races live visit our full greyhound racing sports guide.
Greyhound Racing & Welfare
There have been lots of controversies in regards to greyhound racing and animal rights and welfare. The peak was in the 1990’s when a huge number of animal abuses came to light. The industry had no other choice than addressing the issues but things never really changed and in 2006 thousands of racing dogs were found buried in graves in Seaham.
Since then lots has been done however with more than 8,000 dogs that are retiring every year due to injury before the age of 4 questions remains as to many will go on and live a full life.
Bookmakers that have invested in dog tracks absolutely do not want their brand name to be associated with bad animal practices. Those companies have therefore invested to professionalise the sport and also provide support to the animals beyond their running career.
Unlicensed & Licensed Racing
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain also called the GBGB regulates all UK licensed racing which are the vast majority. All meetings must comply with regulations and standards including the welfare of the animals, facilities and so on.
There are also 5 unlicensed courses in the UK: despite the owners of the tracks has to comply with welfare standards that are set by the UK government there aren’t internal regulation. Those races are called flapping, and you can read more here. It is more difficult to bet on those races. Since the bookmakers have taken more space in the industry, flapper courses are more under pressure.
Greyhound Racing In The World
State of dog racing in the world it is not good, and in the USA greyhound racing has been banned in more than 40 states with only 5 that still have some tracks.
In China, the last greyhound racing was closed in Macau recently and in Australia where the sport is somewhat popular the New South Wales government decided to ban greyhound racing due to welfare issues.
Owners & Prize Money
Prize money in greyhound racing is significantly smaller than in horse racing. Having said that the costs to maintain a dog are lower as well. This allows many middle-class people to own run dogs while they will never be able to afford a horse.
Prize money for regular races is generally in the low thousands of pounds while the biggest race which is the greyhound derby has a prize pot of more than £300,000 with the winner that gets around half of it. Surely there is enough money in the business to still incentive dog buyers.