From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
I must admit I got a little nostalgic reading the newspaper article about the end of greyhound racing at Southland.
Since it opened in 1956, the Southland greyhound racing track has been one of the most popular gambling venues in the south.
But betting on greyhounds has been in a steady decline for years. In 1991, about $3.5 billion was wagered on greyhounds. That amount has dropped to $500 million.
When Southland runs its final race at the end of this year, West Virginia will be the only state with pari-mutuel betting on greyhounds. Last year, dog racing ended in Florida. Voters in that state passed a permanent ban in 2018.
Southland has been phasing out dog racing for almost three years, since the track reached an agreement with the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association.
Over the past three years the average number of races has gone from 110 a week to 54.
Track officials say that after Labor Day, they will drop another 10 races per week.
So far, the track has put up about 1,000 dogs for adoption. There is a huge demand for greyhounds and the waiting is from three to six months.
The Democrat-Gazette interviewed people who have adopted greyhounds, and it came as no surprise to me that they have fallen in love with them.
For one thing, they’re not high-strung. That’s an urban myth.
In fact, they pretty laid back. The dog owners described them as couch potatoes.
Like most other breeds of dog, the kids can get down on the floor and crawl all over them.
Thankfully, the end of live greyhound racing is not the end of Southland as a destination for fun-seekers.
Southland is close to finishing a beautiful $250 million expansion, which was authorized in 2018 when Arkansas voters approved Amendment 100 to the state Constitution.
The casino will have 2,400 slot machines, 50 table games and a parking garage with 1,400 spaces.
The 21-story hotel will have 300 rooms when it’s finished, including a new coffee shop and steak house.
Casino officials hope it’s open by the end of June or the beginning of July.
If all goes as planned, the entire casino complex will finish construction by the end of summer.
What I like the most about Southland’s expansion is that it will create an additional 400 jobs.
Those employees will buy motor vehicles and homes. They’ll eat in local restaurants and buy groceries in local stores.
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon said it best: “When they grow, we grow.”
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.