Burdette says you need to view the injury numbers in the context of the number of races.
"There's seven cards a week, times 15 races per card, times eight dogs per race," Burdette said. That gives you more than 3,000 chances each month for a dog to get hurt at Mardi Gras and more than 400,000 chances for a dog to get hurt at either track over the five-year span that Grey2k examined.
"I have no figures comparing that to other sporting events, but it is a sporting event, there's opportunities for athletes to be injured and if you divide these figures by 400 some thousand, percentage-wise, I would like to see a comparison to other sporting events," Burdette said. "Two hundred eighty-nine (deaths), I don't know how that compares, there's probably more in greyhound racing than normal."
Economics of dog racing
Greyhound racing has been legal in West Virginia since 1975. There has been a dog track in Wheeling since 1976 and a dog track in Cross Lanes since 1985.
In the early 1990s the state allowed the tracks to open casinos there, and both tracks now have hotels, slot machines and table games.
The state takes about 50 percent of casino revenues, most of it for education and senior programs, but some of it goes back to casinos to modernize their slot machines, and nearly $30 million per year goes for greyhound prize money and to the state's 80 or so greyhound breeders.
Greyhound racing and casinos are a bit of a marriage of convenience.
The Legislature originally authorized slot machines and table gaming as a way to prop up the fading racing business and the jobs it supports.
So casinos in West Virginia owe their existence to racing. But racing is now the most labor intensive and least profitable gaming operation, and casinos are state-mandated to run a minimum number of races per week.
Wheeling Island recently lobbied the Legislature, unsuccessfully, to reduce that number.
In 2012, people bet about $110 million on races at West Virginia's two dog tracks. That's more than was bet in 1993, before the casinos were added, but it's less than was bet 10 years ago, when $115 million was wagered.
"Can greyhound racing by itself, stand-alone, survive? I don't believe so," said Dan Adkins, a vice president for Florida-based Mardi Gras Casinos, which owns the casino in Cross Lanes. "If you're going to have gambling why not be able to offer additional products. Do I think they (racing and gaming) complement each other? Yes I do. The additional gaming products have certainly kept these people in business."
Burdette sees any effort by the out-of-state owned casinos to minimize or drop dog racing as a broken promise.
"When they voted on it, it was to be a totally integrated affair," he said. "Racing is labor intensive, it employs people in West Virginia. If they can eliminate racing, all that goes to their bottom line."
Grey2k says it is concerned with the ethics of dog racing, not the finances, but says the economics are emblematic of an outdated industry.
"Subsidies are the equivalent of horse and buggy operations being subsidized by automobile makers," Theil said. "Thirty years ago the things they did were acceptable, and the world has changed."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.