The Dubuque City Council is calling for an end to greyhound racing in Dubuque.
“If you look at the economics of the situation, any other business would have closed a long time ago,” says Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol.
Pari-mutuel wagering was the first gambling to be legalized in Iowa back in 1983 and voters in Dubuque approved of dog racing in their county back in 1985. Buol says there are “hardly any spectators” at the track these days.
“Back in the ’80s and the ’90s, you know, they used to have a full house a lot of evenings and the space was much bigger, the stands were much bigger,” Buol says. “Today I think it’s a sport whose time has come and gone, at least in Dubuque, and I think it would benefit everyone if we could just get rid of it.”
The track is now part of the Mystique Casino in Dubuque and the mayor says the casino spends between three and five million dollars a year subsidizing greyhound racing.
“Unless you believe that an industry should exist on the subsidies of another business, I don’t see what the argument is for keeping it in business,” Buol says. “…There comes a time when you just need to realize that greyhound racing in Iowa, its time has passed.”
There are two greyhound race tracks in Iowa. Dog owners complain the casinos in Dubuque and Council Bluffs no longer promote the races and make it difficult for patrons to follow the action. In 2010 operators of the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs publicly offered to pay the state $7 million a year if legislators and the governor agreed to end greyhound racing in Iowa. A 2012 proposal that stalled in the state senate called for the two casinos to pay the state $70 million in return for a ban on dog racing.
Greyhounds can race at speeds of up to 45 miles an hour. Critics say the animals are easily injured — just like professional athletes — and dogs are sometimes killed after their racing career is over.
There are 21 greyhound racing tracks operating today in the United States. Nearly 30 have closed in the past six years.