Dubuque Will Ask Iowa Lawmakers to Drop Greyhound Racing Requirement

By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

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By Katie Wiedemann

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Greyhound racing tracks could soon be a thing of the past in Iowa. Attendance and profits at greyhound tracks have been falling for years. Officials at the Mystique Casino in Dubuque said spending money to keep the tracks going is not money well spent.

There are two Greyhound tracks left in Iowa. Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs and Mystique Greyhound Park in Dubuque. Combined the tracks have seen a 97 percent decline in betting since 1986. The state requires those casinos to continue Greyhound racing as part of a deal reached years ago.

Mystique Casino General Manager, Jesus Aviles says the casino is losing $4.5 million each year, just to operate the Greyhound Park.

"I am very worried and the reason I am worried is because not only do we have the Greyhound component, we also have increase competition in our businesses," Aviles said.

As a not-for-profit organization, Mystique gives half of it's profits to the city of Dubuque and the other half to local charities.

"The impact of not having that not for profit casino would be devastating," Molly Grover, Dubuque Chamber of Commerce President, said.

City leaders said they use the casino's revenue to keep tax-payers from having to shell out as much cash.

"The city uses that money for capital improvement projects. We have it invested in the riverfront development. We have it invested in the industrial parks," Mike Van Milligen, Dubuque City Manager, said.

Casino directors say if they were able to get rid of racing, they'd make more money to share, but that would come at a loss for the dog owners and the 12 people who work in the racing portion of the casino.

"They've negotiated an agreement with the union where they could either take a position in the casinos, or they could take a retirement package," Van Milligen said.

The Iowa Greyhound Association wants to keep dog racing alive in Iowa. The group says it's important to note the amount of money people spent betting on live racing went up slightly in 2013. While the amount of money people spent in the casino actually dropped. According to the Mystique Casino, in 2013, the amount of money players spent on live racing went up 1.4 percent, but the amount of money players spent on simulcast racing dropped 17. 3 percent.

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