SEK Humane Society asks Crawford County Commission to ban greyhound racing

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
The Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac has not been an active dog racing track for many years.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Greyhound racing may not be a very popular pastime anymore, but according to one local animal advocate, proactive steps need to be taken to prevent it from returning to Kansas. 

Jasmine Kyle, business manager for the Southeast Kansas Humane Society, addressed the Crawford County Commission on Tuesday, expressing her organization’s concerns about one bill under consideration in the Kansas Legislature and her support for another. Both bills deal with greyhound racing, she said. 

Kyle said the SEK Humane Society has been closely watching House Bill 2199 for about a month and a half. 

“I personally testified against it with the United States Humane Society alongside other shelters and organizations,” Kyle said. “Honestly things were looking really good until it suddenly took an abrupt turn, and we’re deeply saddened that we just found out that the House Fed and State Committee cleared the way for greyhound racing to return to Kansas by offering incentives to open the tracks, which is what House Bill 2199 is.” 

HB 2199 purports to be a bill to allow sports betting under the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act, but according to Kyle it would do more than that. 

“Our organization does not have any position on sports wagering until such legislation permits wagering on greyhound racing, an incredibly inhumane sport,” Kyle said. 

“While Bill 2199 doesn’t have ‘greyhound’ in the language, the biggest key part is that they include KELA, the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act, and the big one, KPRA, the Kansas Parimutuel Racing Act, which have mandatory requirements for live greyhound racing. That is why we have been on top of this for months, is because KPRA is in there.” 

Kyle described the proposed legislation as “very sneaky.” 

“Again, there’s no wording of ‘greyhound’ in there, but as long as KPRA is involved, we have to be involved,” she said. 

Despite the majority of Kansans making it “abundantly clear that dog racing is not wanted in our state, as proven in votes, low attendance rates, and minimal participation in betting,” Kyle said, “this fiscally irresponsible and cruel sport is once again being snuck into Kansas legislation, unfortunately.” 

While the SEK Humane Society opposes HB 2199, Kyle said there is another bill currently under consideration in the legislature that also deals with greyhound racing, but which her organization supports. 

“There is another bill and a giant one happening right now in the works, it is Senate Bill 262,” Kyle said. “This bill is supported by Ruffins, the owner of the greyhound racing tracks. He understands that this sport is no longer profitable; it is a dying sport. 41 states have banned dog racing. It is dying for a good reason.” 

On its own, “running dogs or horses doesn’t really work today,” billionaire Phil Ruffin said in 2015. Ruffin is owner of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as the long-disused Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, Kansas. 

“The key to it is gaming. Without gaming, you don’t have a shot,” Ruffin said. 

”When we closed Camptown I think we were losing a couple hundred thousand a month, but parimutuel is not a viable business anymore anywhere in the country,” Ruffin told the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board several years ago. “Parimutuel [horse racing] is dead and Greyhound is even worse.” 

Although the text of SB 262 as introduced last month is more than 70 pages, the bill mainly does three things, according to Kyle. 

“It allows a vote in Sedgwick [County] for a racino, lowers the tax rate for racinos, but the biggest one is that it bans greyhound racing in all of Kansas, period,” she said. “We have a lot of backing for SB 262. We even had Sen. [Richard] Hilderbrand, who is from this area, vote for his disapproval of HB 2199, so we do have, thankfully, a little bit of backing, a lot of senators’ support for SB 262.”  

Still, because HB 2199 is close to passing, Kyle said, some advocacy groups and humane societies are going directly to their county governments to ask for local ordinances prohibiting live greyhound racing tracks. Kyle asked the commissioners Tuesday to approve such an ordinance in Crawford County. 

Following Kyle’s presentation, Commissioner Tom Moody said he had not yet read enough about the proposed bills to make a decision on a county ordinance, and that he would also prefer to wait for a vote until Commissioner Bruce Blair could be there. Blair was not at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Commission Chairman Jeremy Johnson also wanted more time to study the issue and get more information before voting “just so we have a process in place and so we're not doing something on the spur of the moment,” he said. 

“We’ll plan on trying to put something in place so we can move forward examining this closer,” Johnson said.