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    Posted byadmin on Monday, August 25 @ 23:23:42 EDT
    Contributed by admin

    When the last greyhound crossed the finish line in Saturday’s last race at The Woodlands, pari-mutuel racing in Kansas came to an end.

    At least for now.

    The Kansas City, Kan., track’s operators are pinning their hopes on potential changes in the state’s claims on gambling revenues, which might provide enough operating profit to reopen at a later date. The odds against racing’s return, though, are daunting.

    Anticipating the end of that racing era, a good crowd turned out Saturday for the last rounds of racing. Rather than looking empty and derelict, The Woodlands seemed bustling compared with recent months, several patrons said.

    The broad parking lots were only about one-quarter full, but inside the grandstand, many of the choice seats overlooking the greyhound track were taken. Some fans were alone. Others were with husbands, wives and children, or with friends.

    Betty Martin of Kansas City, watching the greyhounds, was among many who had been coming to the track since it opened, and once won $14,000. She held out hope that the track’s management would change and it would reopen. Otherwise, she will be taking her business to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

    “I think it’s terrible, it’s horrible. I want them to stay open,” Martin said.

    The Woodlands’ closing came after negotiations with the state collapsed last month over how to divvy up profits from 800 or more state-owned slot machines that would have transformed the property from an aging, money-losing racetrack to a “racino,” with racing and modern electronic casino games.

    The closure wiped out the last 180 jobs at the track, which once provided work for nearly 900 people.

    The Woodlands’ announcement echoed the decision in May by Wichita businessman Phil Ruffin Sr., who also walked away from a state deal for slots at his long-closed Camptown dog track in Frontenac, Kan.

    Ruffin poured $10 million into redeveloping Camptown before concluding that the state’s mandatory 60 percent bite from gross revenues didn’t leave enough cash flow to turn a sufficient profit.

    Sedgwick County voters last year rejected slots for Ruffin’s Wichita Greyhound Park, and it closed last fall.

    That left The Woodlands as the state’s last remaining year-round track. The track, which once throbbed with the excitement of thousands of fans, has been on borrowed time for a decade.

    The track hadn’t turned a profit since riverboat gambling emerged in Missouri in the mid-1990s. More-recent race-day attendance had been sparse. Slots, which saved tracks in Iowa and 10 other states, were its last and best hope.

    Long decline

    When The Woodlands opened in 1989, riverboat and tribal casinos were just beginning to appear in a handful of U.S. markets.

    For a few years, the measured pace of racing and the cerebral challenge of handicapping attracted a loyal audience that thrilled to the call of “Here comes Woody!” — the mechanical rabbit the racing hounds chased around the quarter-mile sand and clay oval.

    Darren Flahive, owner of the Full House Racing greyhound kennel, fondly remembered those days.

    “You had to get reservations two weeks in advance,” he said. “There were 300 people at the door” waiting for the gates to open each day.

    “You might get 10,000 out here on a Wednesday night. It was unbelievable.”

    In its first full year of operation in 1990, the dual dog-racing and horse-racing facility drew 1.7 million patrons who placed $197 million in wagers.



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