Live greyhound racing to return to Valley Race Park

HARLINGEN – Seven years after the dogs packed up and left, greyhound racing is returning to Valley Race Park in Harlingen.

Texas Racing Commission officials confirmed today the park will resume a full menu of live dog racing in November 2016. The park has requested additional racing days in January and February of 2017.

Races will be held four days a week, with 10 races planned each day.

“The commission did grant some additional race dates to Valley Race Park,” said Rob Elrod, spokesman for the commission. “They already had one scheduled for 2016 (Nov. 26) and the commission granted an additional 35. This is all the result of a plan the dog racing industry brought to the commission this week.”

The Harlingen track will hold five charity days a year, where 2 percent of pari-mutuel and simulcasting revenues will go to charity.

Since the dogs left in 2009, the park has survived on live simulcast dog and horse racing, pay-per-view sports and as a venue for special events such as weddings and meetings.

In 2011, live greyhound racing returned for a limited, five-day engagement, but was only temporary.

Greyhound racing in the United States and elsewhere has been in decline for at least two decades, a victim of changing entertainment tastes and increased competition for gambling dollars from casinos.

From 2001 to 2010, betting at dog tracks declined 67 percent nationally. It is no coincidence this occurred during the rapid expansion of casinos that now operate in 33 states. Texas has one such casino, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass.

There are 20 or so greyhound tracks still operating in the country, a dozen of which are in Florida. There, the primary source of revenue for track operators comes from slot machines, not the dogs.

In addition to Valley Race Park, Texas has dog-racing tracks in Corpus Christi and La Marque. Neither of the latter two tracks have live dog racing currently, but Gulf Coast Racing in Corpus Christi has been granted five days of racing from Aug. 24-28 this year.

Above: A host of male greyhounds jump with friendly enthusiasm at the presence of visitors to their kennel at Valley Race Park in Harlingen Tuesday afternoon. Below: A curious greyhound looks into the camera during a stretching session at the kennels. (Dina Arévalo/Valley Morning Star)

Joe Hermosa / Valley Morning Star

Sylvia, center, rounds the turn and begins to pull out of the pack on her way to victory in the 11th race Wednesday afternoon during the Texas Bred Showdown at Valley Race Park. It was Sylvia’s 10th straight victo

Lynn Hermosa / Valley Morning Star

Sylvia storms home all by herself in the finals of the Texas Bred Showdown on Sunday at Valley Race Park. She romped home by 12 lengths.

Gabe Hernandez / Valley Morning Star

Littermates Truth, left, and Sylvia of the Burk Greyhound Kennel are making a serious run at the Texas Bred Showdown Championship, which continues today at Valley Race Park.

Joe Hermosa/Valley Morning Star

Bettors sit by monitors Wednesday at Valley Race Park in Harlingen. Live dog racing continues through April 7.