October 22, 2014

On 79-16 vote, House ratifies deal to dramatically alter greyhound racing in Iowa

The Iowa House this evening gave final legislative approval to a bill that will end greyhound racing at “Bluffs Run” in Council Bluffs and shift management of the Dubuque Greyhound Park from the casino in Dubuque to the Iowa Greyhound Association.

The deal was negotiated by the dog owners and representatives of the two casinos who complained they’ve been spending $13-million a year to subsidize a dying industry. Representative Mary Ann Hanusa is from Council Bluffs where the Horseshoe Casino and community leaders have complained the property where the dog track sits now is needed for other development.

“This is a bill which represents joint agreement between the casinos and those representing the dog interests,” Hanusa said.

Representative Vicki Lensing of Iowa City was the only other House member who spoke about the bill when it came up for a vote.

“Over the years this has been something that we’ve worked on and in the last few months all of the parties have come together and agreed to the bill we now have before us, so it’s been an amazing journey,” Lensing said.

The deal will see the Council Bluffs casino pay $65 million over the next seven years and the Dubuque casino will pay a million dollars a year.  Half of that money will go into a retirement fund for greyhound owners and breeders who plan to get out of the business. The rest can be used by those who remain in the industry to run the Dubuque Greyhound Park.

The bill, which cleared the Senate late last week, passed the House on a 79-16 vote and goes to Governor Branstad for his review. Lawmakers spent a great deal time this afternoon and early evening at the statehouse in private meetings, trying to come up with final agreements on key legislation so the work of the 2014 session can be concluded this week.