From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Greyhound racing began at the Southland track in 1956, and the final race will take place at the end of 2022.
By mutual agreement between Southland, the greyhound kennel association and the Arkansas Racing Commission, racing will be phased out over the next three years.
The 65 employees who operate the racing track will be offered jobs at the newly-expanded casino. Fortunately, the casino and resort has plans for a $250 million expansion and plans to add about 400 jobs.
There are people who will get nostalgic about the demise of greyhound racing, but the simple fact of the matter is that dog racing has been in decline for decades. It’s not only true in West Memphis but also Florida, West Virginia and the handful of states where greyhounds still race.
One reason Southland wanted to phase out racing was to avoid the consequences of an initiated vote of the people, similar to what happened in Florida.
Nobody wanted a sudden end to racing, because of the difficulties that would create in arranging adoptions for about 1,200 greyhounds.
A gradual phase out gives adoption organizations plenty of time to line up good homes for all the dogs. People who own greyhounds and who work with them all say that they are wonderful dogs.
The popularity of the dog track pales in comparison to the popularity of the adjacent casino.
Wagering on live and simulcasts of greyhound racing amounted to less than $39 million last year, while other forms of wagering at Southland totaled $3.2 billion.
The casino is building a hotel with 300 rooms, additional restaurants and a parking garage big enough to hold 1,250 cars.
In other words, the future is looking bright for tourism in east Arkansas.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.