The chairwoman of a key House committee says it makes sense to pair a proposal to allow larger poker tournaments at the state’s casinos with a plan to end greyhound racing in Iowa.
But Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says an idea advancing in the senate that would see the state get in line to offer sports betting is a bridge too far.
“I think that would be a really heavy lift for the house. People have concerns about that anyway and I think that’s so much more difficult to control then,” Mascher says. “Do we really need that piece of additional gaming in Iowa? I don’t think so.”
Mascher is chair of the House State Government Committee which has jurisdiction over gambling issues. Mascher says, to her, it appears time to close the chapter on greyhound racing in Iowa.
“The greyhound (industry) I think is a dying industry,” Mascher says. “There are only seven states in the country now that have…greyhound racing, so that’s one I hope we can get rid of.”
A “working group” of legislators are meeting to develop a package of gambling proposals that will be debated in the Iowa House. Mascher says it will be “interesting to see” what is included in the final version. Mascher suggests the package would be “balanced” if it includes the proposal to end greyhound racing along with the proposal to allow not only more but larger poker tournaments at the 17 state-licensed casinos.
“The reason I think it balances it is because it reduces gaming in Iowa and that’s something I’m in favor of,” Mascher says. “So if you do on one side a little expansion with Texas Hold ‘Em and on the other side a reduction by eliminating greyhound racing, I think thing you get a balance.”
Two state-licensed casinos in Iowa currently have adjacent greyhound race tracks. Supporters of the greyhound industry say the state benefits from the more than 12 dozen dog kennels around the state that raise dogs to race at the tracks in Council Bluffs and Dubuque.
In 1983, the Iowa legislature legalized wagering on horse and dog races in Iowa. In June of `1985, the Dubuque Greyhound Park opened in Dubuque. Then, in February of 1987 the Bluffs Run greyhound race track opened in Council Bluffs. In 1989, the legislature moved to help the financially-struggling tracks by allowing races run elsewhere to be simulcast at the Iowa tracks so bettors in Iowa could wager on the telecast races. Then legislators allowed the tracks in Council Bluffs and Dubuque, along with the horse racing facility in Altoona, to build adjacent slot machine casinos. A fourth race track — offering greyhound races — opened in Waterloo in 1986 but filed for bankruptcy in late 1993 and closed for good on July 13, 1996.