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Casinos, Greyhound Breeders Reach Deal on Racing

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DES MOINES, Iowa Parties involved in greyhound racing at two Iowa casinos have reached a $72 million agreement for a "soft landing and a second chance" to end racing at one and keep dogs running at the other indefinitely.

Representatives of the Mystique Casino in Dubuque and Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs and the Iowa Greyhound Association have reached an agreement that paves the way for legislation to provide a "soft landing" for the greyhound industry and racetrack workers.

The agreement contained in Senate Study Bill 3223 calls for Bluffs Run to pay $65 million over seven years to the greyhound pari-mutuel fund. It will pay another $20 million in purse supplements while racing continues there this year and next, according to Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

The Mystique will $1 million a year for seven years in addition to purse supplements until the racing season ends Oct. 21, she said,
The legislation also calls for the city of Dubuque leasing the track to the Iowa Greyhound Association for five years with an option to renew that agreement for another five years.

"I think this satisfies everyone to the extent possible," Jochum said.
Casinos have sought to be released from their obligation to host racing for at least eight years, she said. They have argued that dog racing is a dead sport based on their numbers showing wagering has declined by 97 percent in Iowa since 1998. It averages about $1,000 a race.

Jochum speculated that industry representatives may have concluded they couldn't get a better deal than the money on the table this year.
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who will chair an Appropriations subcommittee review of the bill at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, sensed broad, bipartisan support for the bill.

The stakeholders, he said, reached a solution in an "elegant, simple way that can work going forward."

"The net takeaway," Danielson said, "is we've reduced by half the current footprint of dog racing, solved the economic and community concerns and without a dime of taxpayer money."

One half of the $72 million will go into a "soft landing" retirement fund for dog owners and breeders who want to get out of the industry, Danielson said. The other half will support the industry's "second chance" for racing at the Dubuque track.

Rep. Brian Moore, R-Maquoketa, agreed that the legislation give greyhound breeders "one last chance to run their own industry and see if it stands on its own."

"I don't know what better solution they could have come to," Moore said.

SSB 3223 would allow the greyhound association to negotiate with casinos around Iowa to simulcast races. Current law allows simulcasting only at casinos that host live racing.

The greyhound association, however, has argued breeders and handlers contribute to the Iowa economy.

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