An unwanted and inconvenient Canidrome
Macau economists, animal rights activists and community leaders unite in saying the Macau Canidrome is no longer financially or culturally necessary, and should be closed, Lusa news agency reports.
In statements to Lusa, economist José Luís Sales Marques said greyhound races are a “completely extemporaneous activity” that “gives a bad image to Macau” and the Canidrome “shouldn’t be kept open.”
The Canidrome, the only greyhound racetrack in operation in Asia, has seen its revenue decrease in recent years, falling 64 per cent from 2010 to 2014, and 13.7 per cent from 2014 to 2015, according to Lusa. Last year, total revenue from the Canidrome amounted to MOP125 million (US$15.63 million), only 0.05 per cent of Macau’s total gaming revenue, according to official data from the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau (DICJ).
In statements to Lusa, locals expressed that the Canidrome’s golden age in the 1960s and 1970s, when gaming options in the city weren’t as diverse, has “already passed”, and there is now no justification for keeping the track open.
The 50-year Canidrome licence, owned by operator Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Co., part of Stanley Ho’s gaming group Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM), expired last year, with the government choosing to extend it for another year. A final decision was postponed until a study by the University of Macau, focusing on the importance and influence of the Canidrome on the territory as a World Centre for Tourism and Leisure, was concluded.
In May, the Director of the Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming, at the University of Macau, Davis Fong Ka Chio said that the study commissioned by the government on the Canidrome had been completed, but that the government needed time to consider it and decide its next step, with the ‘problem’ expected to be resolved before the deadline, Business Daily reported.
“Times have changed. The Canidrome doesn’t have a reason to exist anymore. It doesn’t produce profit, so it doesn’t make sense. We have different sensibilities now and it’s hard for us to see the abuse the animals there suffer. We should dismantle it,” lawyer and President of the community group Associação
dos Macaenses (Macanese Association), Miguel Senna Fernandes told Lusa.
With the Canidrome license set to expire in six months, a global campaign by international animal rights associations, led by local animal rights group Anima [the Society for the Protection of Animals], has vowed to force the track to close, labelling it as the “worst in the world”.
According to Anima, between 260 and 280 greyhounds died at the track last year, some only one month after arriving, due to cruel training and conditioning practices or being put down due to poor race performances. The local animal concern group also stated that since an international campaign succeeded in suspending the export of greyhounds from Australia to Macau in December last year, only nine greyhounds had arrived in the territory from Ireland.
Since the beginning of the year, the international campaign has focused on blocking greyhound exports from Ireland, managing to convince Qatar Airways, Emirates and British Airways to refuse transportation of greyhounds to Macau.
“We didn’t talk about [the abuses] at the time, we didn’t have that awareness,” the Macanese Association president told Lusa, remembering how the track in the 60s used to be a place where public administration employees like his father, a post office worker, used to go to bet, while greyhound race “betting tips” and information were openly discussed at the city’s coffee houses.
For Macau local resident Jorge Fão, the Canidrome used to be a fun activity that just isn’t economically viable anymore.
“It was fun. Betting on greyhounds is a bit like football. You need to study their weight, behaviour, and coach,” Fão told Lusa, remembering a time when the dogs were even eaten as “tradition and habit.”
Nevertheless, Fão believes the racetrack has already “given everything it has” and that the space should now be used for other purposes.