A state legislator says a deal is in the works that would phase out the support now paid to greyhound tracks in Dubuque and Council Bluffs. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, is the chair the State Government Committee. Danielson says the bill would provide what he calls a “soft landing” for greyhound breeders. “If a breeder says ‘look I’m done with it , I don’t want the fight any more, I’d like to move on’ , there’s a way for them to receive that payout, so that their book of business, they can adjust and move on to other things,” Danielson says.
Casinos say a 1994 rule that requires land-based casinos to keep greyhound tracks, has forced them to pay 13-million dollars each year to subsidize the sport despite lagging attendance. Danielson says the industry has provided a lot of economic development in rural Iowa. “I think it’s unfair to call this a subsidy that must end because we don’t like subsidies,” Danielson says. “The reality is we subsidize business and industries all over Iowa, throughout our tax code.”
He says part of the deal since the beginning has been for the Iowa Greyhound Association to manage a racetrack itself. Danielson says he knows the impact losing a greyhound track can have on a community. The Waterloo Greyhound Park which shut down in 1996 is in his district. “It’s been empty for nearly 20 years, it sits on one of the highest traffic properties in the community right off of Highway 20. There’s no reason it should be empty — but because of a lot of the legal arrangements that had been tied up because of the dog track and casino — there it sits,” Danielson says. He says he doesn’t want to see the same thing happen in Dubuque and Council Bluffs with the closing of the dog tracks there.
Danielson is hoping to get the bill passed before the end of the session. He made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “River to River.”