September 22, 2014

Senate votes to curtail greyhound racing; proposal for smoke-free Cedar Rapids casino tabled (AUDIO)

A bill that would end greyhound racing in Council Bluffs and would shift management of the Dubuque dog track to the Iowa Greyhound Association has cleared the Iowa Senate late this afternoon. The bill passed on a 46-2 vote.

“A bill like this would not have been possible without the stakeholders, the senators here in this chamber, representatives across the rotunda who we worked with to bring together a bill that we think deals with a difficult situation in a very thoughtful, responsible way,” Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, said.

The Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs currently bankrolls Bluffs Run and has agreed to pay $65 million over the next seven years if the greyhound track closes at the end of 2015.  The Mystique Casino in Dubuque will pay $7 million. That $72 million pot of money will be split.  Half of it will go to greyhound owners who get out of the industry. The other half can be used to finance operations of the envisioned greyhound-industry-run track in Dubuque.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration next week, in what could be the final week of the 2014 legislative session.

During today’s senate debate of the measure, Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, tried to tack on a proposal that would have established a smoke-free casino in Cedar Rapids.

“We think that’d be an attraction to the state of Iowa,” Horn said. “It’d be the healthy thing to do and it would be economic development for Cedar Rapids. We still need that!”

Last week the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a proposed casino for downtown Cedar Rapids. Horn objects to the commission’s reasoning that a Cedar Rapids casino would have drawn too many customers from an already existing casino in Riverside.

“Think what it’s done for Dubuque, think what it’s done for Davenport, think what it’s done for Burlington, think what it’s done for Sioux City and Council Bluffs. That was economic development, but this group — what did they do? ‘No, you can’t compete,’” Horn said in the senate today. “I don’t understand it, so we had to have some kind of uniqueness to go to.”

That was the reasoning behind Horn’s idea for a smoke-free casino, since the state-licensed casinos currently operating in Iowa have smoking on the gaming floor.

“I would like to see us give Cedar Rapids another opportunity to have healthy, family gambling in the state of Iowa,” Horn said.

The president of the Senate ruled Horn’s smoke-free Cedar Rapids casino idea was outside the scope of the greyhound bill, so a vote was not taken on the proposal and it was tabled.

AUDIO of Horn explaining his idea, 6:00