The Iowa legislature’s top two leaders have given the state’s greyhound racing industry and the casinos in Council Bluffs and Dubuque something very close to an ultimatum: strike a deal that will end dog racing and provide some kind of temporary pay-out to the dog owners.
“In the strongest possible ways I have said to both sides in this discussion: ‘It behooves you to find a resolution this year,’” says Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs.
And House Speaker Kraig Paulsen — a Republican from Hiawatha — says that is “absolutely” his message as well.
“We would like to see the interested parties, that is the greyhound breeders and racers and the casinos, work out a proposal and something to resolute this situation,” Paulsen says.
The Iowa Greyhound Association has injected a new idea into the negotiations this year: ending dog racing in Dubuque and Council Bluffs, then opening a new dog track “racino” somewhere else. Senate President Pam Jochum (YOH-kum), a Democrat from Dubuque, calls that a “new twist” in the negotiations.
“It’s a little harder lift, I will say that. Some people view that as an expansion of gambling,” Jochum says. “…It has certainly entered into the mix and it is currently part of the on-going discussion between all of the parties.”
Governor Branstad last week said a new dog track doesn’t make a lot of sense, because greyhound racing is a “dying industry” according to Branstad. A bill that would end greyhound racing in Iowa and have the casinos in Dubuque and Council Bluffs pay those who own and race the dogs $70 million is eligible for debate in a House committee, but leaders say they’re waiting for the two sides to wrap up negotiations before debating the bill.