Governor Terry Branstad says greyhound racing is a “dying industry,” but he says any bill that shuts down the state’s two dog tracks should include reparations to dog owners.
“Attendance at dog races has dropped very dramatically and it’s extremely expensive subsidy that the casinos have to provide, but I also am empathetic towards for the casinos in our state and so if this is going to be resolved, it needs to be resolved in a way that’s fair to all parties,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly news conference.
The Iowa Greyhound Association has suggested if the legislature votes to close the two tracks connected to casinos in Council Bluffs and Dubuque, the association should be able to explore the idea of opening a new “racino” exclusively for greyhound racing. Branstad said the proposal “doesn’t sound like something that makes a lot of sense.”
“Dog racing is a dying industry all over the country. A lot of dog tracks have closed…Attendance has dropped dramatically,” Branstad told reporters. “…We already have one that’s closed in Waterloo.”
The 64-acre Waterloo Greyhound Park opened in 1986 and racing there ended in 1994. The site has been idle ever since, although a buyer expressed interest in the property last summer as a site for business expansion. Thirty years ago Governor Branstad signed the law allowing pari-mutuel betting in Iowa and he said if Iowa does end greyhound racing, there should be some compensation for greyhound breeders in Iowa, but not to out-of-state breeders.
“I would certainly like to see what can be worked out,” Branstad said. “I believe that it’s something that needs to be done in a thoughtful way that protects the interests of the dog breeders as well as the casinos and, frankly, the citizens and taxpayers of Iowa.”
A coalition of groups from Council Bluffs and Dubuque plan to be at the statehouse this afternoon to announce creation of a group called “Iowans for Ending Dog Racing.” Non-profit groups and schools in both cities argue the casinos could make more charitable contributions in the area if the two casinos weren’t saddled with the financial drag of operating the dog tracks and paying prize money to the winning greyhound owners.
A bill that would close the two dog tracks and set up a $70 million fund for pay-outs to greyhound breeders is eligible for debate in the Iowa House.
AUDIO of governor’s weekly news conference