I enjoyed the presentation, ‘cos we used to have greyhounds – interesting
You would think about the American greyhound industry when you hear these statistics.
Start in 1990 changes – 2000 – 2005
We are still open for business, there were 37 tracks 20 years ago, currently we are down to 26, so same kind of situation as yourselves. Our attendances have been absolutely hammered. 20 years ago there were 4 million race goers attending our tracks, this changed very little up until year 2000 and now you can see over the last 3 years as the recession has started to take a chunk out of everything, in the high street, and retail, our attendances have plummeted quite dramatically. Between 2008 and 2009 a 13% decline in attendances.
The business itself has changed considerably when the promoters try and bring people in through the gates they have been offering more and more cut throat packages, cut throat prices, virtually giving it away, so not only are there fewer tracks there are a lot fewer people coming through the turn styles.
This shows 1 track turnover [slide]
In the US you the only place you can have a bet is a casino or on a racetrack. In the UK that is not the case. There are over 10,000 betting shops in the High Streets, Ladbrokes own 2,200 of them, I should know how many there are and our competitor is on the High Street in the locality where the individual customer lives, so with that we have on-line betting, telephone betting, any kind of betting you can think of then is legal in the UK. We also have person to person betting where you don’t have to go to a shop, you simply have a bet with someone else. The biggest player there is a company called Betfair, a brilliant business plan, I wish I had thought of it myself! Because the amount of money they take dwarfs any other type of betting that we have.
What’s happened with on-track tote turnover is we don’t commingle there is so little in the UK you would think it was ripe for anyone else to get involved with tote, but it’s not worked. Tote betting is not a great attraction, the problem with any kind of pool betting is you can only win what the other person has put into the pool, whereas with the bookmaking you can bet any amount of money and you can win any amount of money, so the tote has never been that popular, despite that what you see here is the turnover of shares between 25 tracks of £50 million (slide)
The interesting aspect of the tote turnover is that if you divide the tote turnover by the number of racecourses you get the same spend per head now as existed 20 years ago. I don’t know if that’s true in the US but it’s definitely true in the UK.
A concern for me is the number of greyhounds that are available in the UK, 80% of our greyhounds come from Ireland, the other 20% are British bred.
What you can see here is the consistency to the number of greyhounds we have available for our tracks regardless of how many tracks we have. Dividing the number of greyhounds by the number of tracks or the number of meetings or the number of races, gives a fairly consistent figure. Our concern was that the number of tracks declined, that means the numbers of breeding declined. So far, in the UK that isn’t the case. What has happened is that greyhounds have become a lot cheaper. You’ve heard of ‘buy one get one free’ – well we have that with the dogs!
Every track operator knows that the legislation is a major issue, it wasn’t really a major issue in the UK until 2006.
What I have here is the details of a press release that came out on Friday 13th June which was going to be published in The Sunday Times. The Sunday Times is the biggest newspaper in the UK.
It says the secret slaughter of at least 10,000 racing greyhounds, and one man has been exposed by an undercover investigation. For the past 15 years David Smith a builder’s merchant has been reportedly killing healthy greyhounds no longer considered by their trainers to be fast enough to race. He buries them in a 1 acre plot at the back of his home in Seaham, County Durham. The Sunday Times covertly filmed this on two consecutive days, receiving greyhounds from trainers before killing them with a bolt-gun, dumping them in the plot and covering the graves with a mechanical digger. An undercover report said it took him three years to fill the field, at which point he simply started all over again. “Within a year the bodies have gone” said Smith “it takes me about three years to get across there and by the time I get there I can start back here again when there are only a few bones left”.
According to The Sunday Times’ calculation and testimony of two racing insiders, it is conservatively estimated Smith has killed at least 10,000 dogs. The scandal, described as ‘a canine killing field’ by one campaigner, has shocked the government and the greyhound industry, which attracts bets of £2.5 Billion per year. Mr Bradshaw, Minister for Animal Welfare said “the business was horrendous” and promised an enquiry into the slaughter.
Now the greyhound industry in the UK ignored that story, they shouldn’t have. The story itself was accompanied by two photographs on the front page of the national newspaper. One of the photographs showed Smith with two greyhounds lying dead in a wheelbarrow. Now we mounted an investigation and it was denied that it was anything like 10,000 greyhounds. We mounted an investigation and tried to diminish the impact that one story had.
This legislation came about directly as a consequence of the fact that we had closed our eyes to that horrendous story.
What we have here are two Acts of Parliament, the first one gave 5 basic laws and 5 basic freedoms to all animals including greyhounds, ….. also gave them to lobsters, it’s now illegal to put a live lobster into a pot of boiling water (ha ha), you have to humanely kill it first!! I mean, I thought the American law was daft but!!! It’s not the case!! Ha ha
The bigger issue for us is the welfare of racing greyhound regulations that comes into effect on April 6th this year and we trialed, and trailed the information of about 10 pages of daft legislation, things like ‘you have to be able to observe the greyhound when it’s in a racing kennel. The integrity of the kennel has been destroyed as a result of that. There are a whole load of things, you know the vet room has to have about 20 different conditions attached to it!! Um, a whole load of legislation which has been drafted and decreed by Defra by people who don’t know anything about greyhound racing.
But it all comes back to the one story which wasn’t true, and I don’t believe it was ever true, I mean, yes there were some greyhounds there but …….
Now, the biggest bear trap that has been set in the new regulations is that they have said that every greyhound before it sets foot on a track has to be microchipped.
This is our success story [slide]. This is Angie Folleringham at our track in Crayford, Kent. Six months ago the government said, look, you are going to have to microchip all your dogs. Angie went along, became trained as a ‘chipper’, a microchipper, and in one day she chipped 150 greyhounds! This law that comes in on April 6th was supposed to destroy greyhound racing in the UK by making it so difficult to race greyhounds, right now, every dog that is racing at a track is microchipped, thanks to Angie and her colleagues!!
So, in summary, we’ve got a similar industry to yourselves, a falling number of greyhound tracks, we have falling attendance, we have a rapidly declining tote turnover, we have legislation which is being brought in to try and, I think, probably destroy greyhound racing. We have a problem with our media, we have a problem with our PR, we have a problem with our image, but we’re not downhearted, we’re still here, we’re still operating. One of my general managers who has two small children asked me how can we keep greyhound racing going for the next 18 years so he can get his children through university and pay his mortgage, I would like to be around in 18 years……… Thank you very much.