One of the proposals that’s included in the package of gambling bills still in consideration by Iowa lawmakers would eliminate greyhound racing. The proposal initially included a provision where Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs and Mystique Casino in Dubuque could maintain their gaming license and discontinue live dog races if they pay a “racing exemption fee.”
Iowa Greyhound Association president, Bob Hardison, says he was shocked when he first heard about the proposal, considering the history the industry. Hardison says when the Indian gaming and riverboats came around, the legislature passed the law allowing the slot machines in the race tracks to help preserve the agricultural-based greyhound and horse racing industries. “That law was very clear when it was passed and why it was passed, was to help the working families in the state that were involved in the greyhound industry,” Hardison says.
Hardison says the dog tracks contribute more to the state than casinos.”We have a much higher economic impact on the state of Iowa through all the farms that we have, the people we employ, the property taxes we pay, we higher veterinarians we buy feed,” Hardison says. Hardison says his own small business employs eight people, and there are hundreds of others in the greyhound industry that do the same thing.
Hardison says the casinos take most of their money out of state, and cutting greyhound racing would send more money out of Iowa. “They just want to get rid of us, because it would make it just that much more profitable for them,” Hardison says. He says it’s very clear they don’t want greyhound racing to succeed. Hardison says it’s evident it’s all about more money for the casino operators.
Hardison says another thing in the proposal that is “hypocritical” is the casino wants to get rid of live greyhound racing, but then they want to bring in simulcast greyhound and horse racing from other tracks for people to bet on. “It certainly seems hypocritical, doesn’t it?,” Hardison asks.
Hardison says he believes lawmakers have a clear choice. He says it comes down to a question of whether the “Iowa legislature will continue to support the hard working rural Iowans, or whether they will allow Harrahs to bully ’em around…and cut us out of the equation and ship that much more money to Las Vegas.” Hardison says the casinos in the state were already hurting the take of the dog and horse tracks in the state before the casinos were allowed at the tracks.
And he says they knew the tracks would be hurt more by the new casinos. Hardison says that’s why the legislature required the casinos to use some of their profit help supplement the tracks. “And I don’t think the legislature will change that one us, I mean we’ve put hundreds of thousands of dollars in our facilities….and hundreds of Iowa families that depend on this business to make a living in Iowa,” Hardison says. The provision for the racing exemption fee has been taken out of the bill.
Governor Culver recently said, while eliminating greyhound racing has been in the mix of gambling bills, it has not been on the table in his discussions with Democratic leaders at the statehouse.