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Greyhound racing simulcast bill fails in House

By Staff
March 13. 2013 10:49PM

CONCORD - The House on Wednesday killed legislation that would have required Rockingham Park and Seabrook Greyhound Park to accept simulcast greyhound racing signals only from states that require their tracks to report greyhound injuries.

The vote was 243-108.

Seabrook Park owner Karen Keelan had told the New Hampshire Union Leader in January that House Bill 554, if passed, would have put her facility out of business, costing about 150 jobs.

Grey2K USA, a nationwide greyhound protection nonprofit, was successful after several tries in outlawing greyhound racing in the state in 2010. All live dog racing had actually ended in 2009 and Rockingham followed by ending horse racing in 2010.

Grey2K, backing the bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, tried to pare down the simulcasting of greyhound races available to the two New Hampshire facilities by forbidding Seabrook and the Rock from accepting races broadcast from what it considers the least safe greyhound tracks in the country.

It was the first legislation of its kind in the nation, said Grey2K USA Executive Director Carey Theil. He said the group will try again in the future to have the bill pass.

Theil said Grey2K USA hopes that by reducing the number of facilities that the out-of-state tracks can send their signals to, more states will require reporting, and, he said, the number of greyhounds euthanized has been shown to drop significantly in states after passage of an injury-reporting law.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 11 to 7 to recommend that the bill be killed and the full House concurred.

According to state Rep. Patricia Lovejoy, D-Stratham, the Seabrook park has "informed their employees, that due to the significantly reduced income they would be closing both their simulcast operation and their charitable gaming room if this bill becomes law. This would result in the loss of 150 jobs and the loss of $700,000 per year to charities that rely on the Seabrook charitable gaming operation. The Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission estimates the loss to state revenue to be $190,000, with a potential loss of up to $900,000 if Seabrook Park closes, in addition to the loss of ancillary revenues, of rooms and meals tax and business profit taxes."

But Rep. Mary Cooney, D-Plymouth, wrote that the bill "supports the New Hampshire policy of humane treatment of animals and greyhound dogs in particular. The Legislature banned greyhound dog racing in 2010 because of its inherent lack of humane treatment of the dogs involved in the business of greyhound racing."

She said that under the bill, Seabrook and Rockingham could still obtain simulcast signals from four states that require injury reporting.

In nearly an hour of debate, Vaillancourt said the bill would "reaffirm New Hampshire values."

He said those values include "cruelty to dogs will not be tolerated."

Vaillancourt said the two former racetracks did not go out of business as a result of being required to report greyhound injuries at their facilities. He said greyhound racing is a dying industry overall.

But Rep. Aboul Khan, R-Seabrook, said the bill would have a "devastating effect" on the track and his town.

Cooney said dogs "have a special place in American culture."

She said she was sure Seabrook and Rockingham will not go out of business "simply because they would have to change signals."

After the vote, Theil of Grey2KUSA said he was disappointed by the vote, surprised by the margin, but said the bill will be re-submitted in future years.

He said the vote was "out of touch with where the people of New Hampshire are."


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