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Originally published Sunday, December 26, 2004 at 12:00 AM

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W. Coast greyhound racing likely over

The operator of Multnomah Greyhound Park, the last greyhound racing track on the West Coast, says it will not renew its lease, likely ending a diversion that began in Oregon in...

WOOD VILLAGE, Ore. — The operator of Multnomah Greyhound Park, the last greyhound racing track on the West Coast, says it will not renew its lease, likely ending a diversion that began in Oregon in 1933.

Magna Entertainment Corp., which has held operating rights at the track since 2001, blamed competition from tribal casinos, the Oregon Lottery and Internet betting.

Betting at the track fell by more than 50 percent between 1995 and 2002, from $25 million to about $11 million.

As many as 30,000 greyhound-racing fans once packed into what is now PGE Park in Portland. Magna estimated opening-day attendance on May 1, 2004, at 7,000.

The company will continue to operate horse racing at Portland Meadows, said Scott Daruty, chief U.S. counsel for the Canadian-based corporation.

Magna is committed to caring for the 46 dogs now in its adoption program at Multnomah Greyhound Park, said Patti Lehnert, animal-welfare coordinator at the facility. The program places retired racers with families.

Magna's decision appears to have been solely economic, said Jodi Hanson, director of the Oregon Racing Commission.

"They made a business decision that they can't run both tracks. We don't control those business decisions," she said.

Animal-rights groups welcomed the announcement by Magna.

"The end of this cruel industry is a victory for everyone who cares about animals," said Carey Theil, president of Grey USA, a Massachusetts-based group opposed to greyhound racing.

About a dozen farms in Oregon breed greyhounds, but most of the dogs are shipped to other states.

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The closure may trigger a spat between Magna and the Oregon Greyhound Association, which handles and distributes purses at the track.

Paul Romain, the association's attorney, said the group anticipated racing in 2005 and will determine if it can compel Magna to hold races next year, or if damages are involved.

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