Iowa Greyhound Racing to End Next Year, as Casino Subsidy Concludes

Posted on: October 25, 2021, 11:39h. 

Last updated on: October 25, 2021, 01:10h.

Iowa is set to join the laundry list of states that have done away with greyhound racing. Officials at Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, the lone remaining dog racetrack in the state, confirmed last week that 2022 will be the venue’s final season in operation.

Iowa greyhound racing casino Council Bluffs
A 2011 file photo shows greyhounds racing at the Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs. Greyhound racing in Iowa is set to conclude next year. (Image: AP)

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Director Brian Ohorilko revealed that the track has notified the state of its forthcoming closure. As a result, the Iowa Greyhound Association requested a reduced number of approved racing days from the state for the 2022 season.

The Iowa Greyhound Association, as part of its request for license renewal, request to reduce their race meet to 18 days — and also to end greyhound racing after 2022,” Ohorilko revealed.

The 2022 season will run from April 16 to May 15, 2022. The Iowa Greyhound Park expects to host four days of live racing each week during the roughly one-month stretch. Races will run at 5:30 pm local time on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and at 1:00 pm on Sundays.

Greyhound Racing Demise

The sport of dog racing has declined considerably over the past two decades.

The Association of Racing Commissioners says betting revenue on greyhound events declined nationwide by 67 percent between 2001 and 2011. That’s largely because of concerns regarding the welfare of the dogs. Further reductions in pari-mutuel betting activity have been incurred over the past 10 years, with numerous states passing laws to ban the controversial sport.

As of today, only five states have active greyhound racetracks. Along with Iowa, they are Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and West Virginia.

Brian Carpenter, general manager of the Iowa Greyhound Park, said the sport’s decline has resulted in fewer available dogs for competition. He says greyhound racing is no longer a viable business, and the sport — which began at the Dubuque track in 1985 — must end.

Subsidy Completion

Caesars Entertainment’s real estate investment trust VICI Properties owns Horseshoe Council Bluffs. The greyhound racetrack casino — commonly referred to as a racino — was authorized to incorporate slot machines and table games into the facility in 1995 in exchange for the casino pledging to continue hosting live greyhound racing.

However, in 2014, VICI and Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino operator Caesars struck a deal with the state that allowed the resort to terminate greyhound racing. The bill permitted Caesars/VICI to sever their ties with greyhound racing. But the state demanded it does so in a responsible manner that assured the safety of the animals.

The approved statute allowed greyhound racing at the Council Bluffs racino to end in October of 2017. But it also mandated that Caesars provide Iowa Greyhound Park with an annual subsidy of $4.6 million for five years. The funds were to make sure impacted dogs were adopted responsibly.

That annual $4.6 million payment terminates in 2021. Carpenter says without the money, Iowa Greyhound Park cannot survive.

“We never did make it to a point where we could survive on our own. We lasted longer than most people expected,” Carpenter told the Associated Press last month.