La Marque track falls victim to Covid-19 economic crisis
Breaking news: Gulf Greyhound Park to shut down after 28 years
Gulf Greyhound Park, a gambling staple since 1992 in La Marque, is shutting down effective immediately.
The track will surrender its gaming license and cease to operate. Employees were informed on Tuesday.
The news was confirmed by track announcer John Paul Faour. He worked at the track for 22 years, starting as a waiter when the track opened and later becoming track announcer in 1999 and adding the title of mutuels manager in 2015. He also hosted a popular late-night replay show for several years.
He was predictably disappointed, but focused on the positives.
"It sucks for all of us who work there and all the regulars who came out all the time," he said. "But the place and the people were great for me. I got to do play by play announcing nationwide, I got to host the TV show five nights a week in the Houston market. I learned marketing, promoting and wrote over 100 TV and radio spots. And I did all of that in my hometown of La Marque."
Gulf Greyhound Park opened November 10, 1992 and quickly became one of the premier dog tracks in the country. It featured high-class racing and some of the better greyhounds in the country spent time at the track. Huge crowds and large betting pools were common. But over time, popularity began to wane.
In recent years, live racing gave way to more simulcasting, allowing people to bet on greyhounds and race horses around the country. While they still had the occasional live race meet, it was a far cry from the glory days of racing nearly year round in the 1990s. Gulf had tried along with other racetracks to get additional gaming approved to boost revenue, but the state refused their overtures. Every neighboring state's racetracks are supplemented by other forms of gaming, making competing difficult, but the Legislature never budged.
The track survived damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008, but was never really the same and the economic damage of the Covid-19 shutdown was too much to overcome. Gulf recently reopened along with the rest of the state this month and had a good crowd for Belmont Stakes Day two weeks ago. But the recent spike and potential second shutdown proved fatal.
The closing leaves Sam Houston Race Park as the last legal gambling facility in the Houston area outside of private poker clubs.