The year was 1932… bread was 7 cents a loaf, a newspaper 10 cents, and gas just 11 cents a gallon. Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Cash were born that year. Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing was playing, and Grand Hotel won the best picture Academy Award. The New York Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs in four straight to win the World Series (featuring Babe Ruth’s famous called shot). The Summer Olympics were held in Southern California and the Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY. Herbert Hoover was President and the country’s population was 124 million.
On Wednesday night, Feb. 17, 1932, the Palm Beach Kennel Club introduced greyhound racing and pari-mutuel wagering to Palm Beach County. An estimated crowd of 4,000 attended opening night and 24 mutuel windows were opened to accommodate the jam-packed grandstands. Broom Boy won the first race returning $38.60; Dr. Harry captured the Inaugural and in one race, favorite Harley Blitz caught the mechanical lure.
The Palm Beach Kennel Club, a fan-favorite for locals and visitors, will celebrate its 88th Birthday Monday, February 17 with lots of fun and festivities. Throughout the years, an estimated 45 million have come through the turnstiles wagering billions of dollars. The Kennel Club has come a long way and here are some of the highlights:
The first year, with 38 racing dates, attendance was 72,585 and the pari-mutuel handle $614,538. In 2019, there were 310 racing days, 412 live performances with $61.8 million bet on track and $134.6 million wagered on PBKC greyhounds. PBKC was granted year-round racing in 1987 and in 1991 simulcast wagering was introduced. In 1997, The Poker Room became the latest form of entertainment at the Kennel Club.
Since that time, the Poker Room has become one of Florida’s largest Poker Room with 64 tables of action. July 1, 2011 was a big day as the poker limits were lifted in terms of buy-ins for poker tournaments. In February, 2011, the Poker Room made history as the first non-casino to host World Series of Poker Circuit Events. In 2012, multiple WSOPC records were broken with 8,177 participants $3.7 million in prize money awarded and the first ever WSOPC $1 Million Guarantee. This resulted in over 2,000 hotel room nights and close to $1 million in event impact.
The O.M. Carmichael Family built the original facility, which lasted until the mid-1950’s. A group headed by Phil Bryan purchased the track from Carmichael and later sold it to a corporation headed by Bernie Griffin. John Boggiano owned the track for 18 years from 1953 to 1970 and he built the current grandstands in 1962. In 1970, Boggiano sold the track to Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. and his five sons: Dan, Art Jr., Tim, Pat and John. The Rooney Family also owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, six-time NFL champions.
PBKC is one of the oldest and most competitive tracks in the country and has featured some of the best greyhounds ever in the history of the sport.
1964-66 – Westy Whizzer, a three-time All American – Captain (1966), North American Win Champ, Hall of Fame …. 1970-71 – Izz A Champ, 21 in a row, All American Captain, Rural Rube …. 1988-89 – He’s My Man, North American Win Champ, All American Captain, Rural Rube …. 1993-94 – Pat C Rendezvous, 36 consecutive victories (3/8ths Mile World Record), North American Win Champ, All American Captain, Flashy Sir, Hall of Fame…. 2006-07 – Ozzie The Man, North American Win Champ, All American Captain, Rural Rube, 26 in-a-row… 2014-15 – KB’s Like A Fox, All-time PBKC win leader with 90 victories and two-time track champion.
The Kennel Club has also played a major role in the community in terms of economic and social contributions. This past year PBKC employed 520 with a payroll of $16.6 million and the 12 contracted kennels earned $3.9 million in purses. The State of Florida and County received $4.7 million in pari-mutuel, Poker Room and other taxes and over $10 million was spent on goods and services.
In conjunction with the State of Florida, the Kennel Club in has donated millions to charity and scholarship organizations since 1932. In 2019, $498,552 was given to worthwhile organizations. Four greyhound adoption groups received $78,742 in funds and support. Last year, our Poker Room hosted ten charity tournaments which raised $83,215 for local charities. Last year was a big year for the Rooney’s Golf Foundation which surpassed the million – dollar mark in donations. Since 2001, RGF has donated $1,030,441 to local organizations through events like the golf tournaments, 5K Run/Walk, Poker tournaments, Bowling Bash and Overcomer Luncheons.
PBKC also works with four adoption groups to find homes for retired racers and with Hounds and Heroes which brings together retired veterans and greyhounds. PBKC’s support of these groups includes funding, administrative support, advertising, promotion and assistance with fund-raising events. The groups include: Awesome Greyhounds/Hounds and Heroes, Greyed A Greyhound, Greyhound Pet Adoption and Greyhound Support Transport. They are non-profit, volunteer-run groups that are very active in the community, participating in events, parades and other functions.
In 2018, voters decided that greyhound racing in Florida should come to an end. “PBKC will carry on doing business as usual today and in days to come. Today we race, the Poker Room is open and simulcast racing is available all day and this will continue moving forward. We can assure you that we will do everything in our power to protect our employee’s jobs. With regards to the greyhounds, we have to the end of 2020 to race and we plan to proceed with our current racing schedule. We hope our fans will continue to enjoy our sport for the upcoming years. When greyhound racing winds down, we assure you that we will find homes for every greyhound,” said PBKC President Patrick J. Rooney, Jr.