- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - City and business leaders are backing an effort to end greyhound racing in Dubuque and Council Bluffs, but some legislators say they worry about job losses if the tracks are closed.

The Mystique greyhound track in Dubuque and Bluffs Run Greyhound Park at Horseshoe Council Bluffs are the last two remaining in the state, and attendance has been falling for years due to the impact of casinos. Gambling profits at the tracks have plummeted from a combined total of $186 million in 1986 to $5.9 million in 2012.

About $14 million in annual subsidies from Iowa casino profits help keep greyhound racing operations afloat, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1jum5zq ). Some lawmakers and business leaders believe the money could be better spent on either charitable organizations or redevelopment.

“This simply isn’t working any more. If this were any other business in the private sector, it would have been shut down a long time ago,” said Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

Leaders in Dubuque and Council Bluffs have endorsed proposals that would allow Mystique and Horseshoe to keep their casino licenses without the dog tracks.

But other lawmakers, expressing concern over job losses, say they want the greyhound industry and casino industry to reach an agreement before a bill is formally on the table. That could mean casino owners in Dubuque and Council Bluffs offering compensation to greyhound breeders and owners as they phase out racing.

“This is a big industry in the state. It is my understanding there are roughly about 1,100 or 1,200 or 1,300 people who make their living off of this; whether they own greyhounds, whether they work on a farm or whether they work at the tracks. I want to make sure that we address their concerns instead of just shutting them down,” said state Rep. Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque.

Iowa is one of seven states that still have legal and operational greyhound tracks. Commercial dog racing is illegal in 38 states.

The Iowa greyhound industry says there are hundreds of jobs at stake. Supporters also note there are millions of dollars tied to agriculture through breeding farms and kennel operations.

Casino lobbyists say the number of greyhound industry jobs is grossly inflated. Leaders for both casinos say they would try to accommodate laid-off track employees.

Jerry Crawford, a Des Moines attorney for the Iowa Greyhound Association, says leaders in Dubuque and Council Bluffs have forgotten the industry’s impact in revitalizing those communities.

“The city of Dubuque and the city of Council Bluffs were both in a really downtrodden way when they got racetracks. People have forgotten that greyhound racing led to a revitalization of both of those towns,” he said.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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