You’ve seen the television commercials showing dogs streaking the track at Tucson Greyhound Park.
Bring the family, the ads encourage you. But they don’t mention how taxpayers keep the racetrack afloat.
Attendance and revenues decline every year. So how does Tucson Greyhound Park stay in business? Taxpayers.
Laws exempt the track from paying pari-mutuel taxes otherwise due on gambling profits.
Unlike most states, Arizona also does not tax the park’s substantial revenues on simulcasting racing from other tracks.
That means hardworking Arizona families subsidize this dying business.
Other industries in Arizona and elsewhere are regulated. They share revenues with the state to pay for enforcement of statutory requirements.
“We believe that the Arizona racing industry should provide revenue for this purpose,” says the Arizona Department of Racing.
But in the 1990s, racetracks complained that casinos and other factors were trimming their profits.
Lobbyists convinced our Legislature that the racetracks needed help. And they got it.
Tucson Greyhound Park claims that taxing the millions it makes from live racing and simulcasting would drive it out of business.
The Department of Racing says otherwise. An audit report last year showed that 70 percent of all pari-mutuel wagering in Arizona is tax-free.
During the past six years, the industry received $44 million in tax exemptions and credits, the audit shows.
Tucson Greyhound Park made $21. 4 million in fiscal 2007.
Minus payouts to bettors, and adding tax credits and exemptions, the track received $4.9 million in profits. Yet it paid no pari-mutuel taxes.
More astounding, perhaps, is that no Arizona income tax was paid by the two Florida partners who own the park – and who got not only track profits, but also a management fee of $2.2 million.
The park’s shareholders, says a 2007 audit report, “had never filed Arizona individual income tax returns, and C&Z Management LLLC had never filed Arizona partnership income tax returns.”
With insufficient personnel and funds, the Department of Racing struggles to regulate the pari-mutuel system and the welfare of racing animals.
One greyhound inspector oversees two dog tracks, hauling trucks and dozens of breeding farms in Arizona.
Tucson Greyhound Park has failed to meet its responsibilities to the greyhounds, says Geoffrey Gonsher, recently retired director of the Department of Racing.
Meanwhile, out-of-state owners take millions out of Arizona and hire lobbyists to avoid tax payments.
Worse, the park claims it cannot afford to provide the greyhounds with healthy food instead of raw, diseased meat.
It insists it can’t separate females from males.
Instead, it injects the females with dangerous steroids at a young age to prevent them from coming into heat while at the track.
Nor can the greyhounds be freed from their small cages for more than one hour a day, park officials say.
In this time of rising costs for fuel and other needs, mortgage foreclosures and layoffs, why must Arizona taxpayers subsidize a business with a sorry history of animal neglect, disappearing dogs, illegal dog drug use and failure to pay income taxes?
Tell your state representatives, senators and Gov. Janet Napolitano that it’s time to take another look at greyhound racing – and at its real cost to people and dogs in Arizona.
Susan R. Via is a retired federal prosecutor and former Vermont deputy health commissioner who now heads the Tucson Dog Protection initiative, which has qualified for the November ballot in South Tucson. (See www.tucson dogprotection.com.) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org