- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa House panel moved forward Wednesday on a bill to end greyhound racing in the state and set up a so called “retirement fund” that would pay breeders and employees in the industry up to $70 million.

The bill will move next to the full House Ways and Means Committee for consideration, after only two of a three members on the subcommittee signed off on the bill to advance it.

Reps. Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, and Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, chose to move the bill forward.

Rep. Brian Moore, R-Bellevue, declined to sign it, saying he preferred to see if the dog industry and casino operators reached an agreement of their own.

Casinos in Council Bluffs and Dubuque, which spent $10 million to subsidize dog racing last year, say the industry is dying and the money could be better spent.

“We’re very much in favor of this legislation,” said Don Wimmer, a lobbyist for the Mystique Casino in Dubuque. “We feel it’s time to stop racing in Iowa and to get on with other things.”

Jim Carney, a lobbyist for Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, said dog racing is a dying industry.

“It’s just a thing of the past,” he said. “We’re lucky if we get $1,000 per race being wagered. The wagering is nothing more than the kennel people and the people working with the dogs coming into the clubhouse to bet on the dogs themselves.”

Under the proposal, the casinos would put up the $70 million over six years to compensate dog owners, breeders and other dog racing workers. The greyhound industry has said it employs 1,200 people in Iowa.

A lobbyist for the greyhound industry asked lawmakers to move slowly and allow the dog industry and casinos to work out an agreement instead of one imposed by the Legislature.

Don Avenson said a meeting is scheduled for Thursday to work out a plan all can support.

Greyhound supporters have said $70 million isn’t enough and they have sought to keep racing in at least one location in the state.

“I don’t quite understand why we’re in a hurry to kill the only thing that has come of any lasting value across the state not just Council Bluffs or Dubuque,” Avenson said.

He said greyhound breeders and owners support local hardware stores, veterinarians and other small town businesses in Iowa.

Pritchard said he supports the bill as long as it provides a “soft landing” for the industry.

“We’ll continue to monitor and closely watch the engagement between these parties. We’ll hope the parties can come to an agreement as to what that soft landing will look like.”

Lawmakers have told casinos and the dog industry to come up with their own plan or accept the Legislature’s solution.

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