Iowa Panel Won't Pursue Case Against Rasmussen

by Dan Johnson

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will not pursue gambling charges against former Prairie Meadows chairman Jim Rasmussen.

Rasmussen admitted to wagering on football games through a bookmaker in the spring. He resigned from the Racing Association of Central Iowa board in May, and also gave up his license as a horse owner, though the family's horses ran in the name of his wife, Sandra.

Rasmussen is battling inoperable lung cancer. However, turning in his licenses was the main reason for dismissing the case, said Mike Mahaffey, chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

"He had basically done everything we initially asked him to do," Mahaffey said. "We had been wrestling with whether we wanted anything else. Secondly, we knew that from communications from legal counsel that his health had deteriorated. I think the reason was twofold. We just thought it was time for it to come to an end."

Jack Ketterer, the commission's executive director, said a letter was being drafted to inform Rasmussen that the case was over.

Rasmussen, who joined the racing association when it came out of bankruptcy in 1993, had been chairman since 1995. He was among 55 people named as prosecution witnesses when Robert Derryberry was charged with bookmaking in the spring, and acknowledged that he and his sons had bet on football games.

The furor, combined with ill health, caused him to resign from the track board. After the state turned down a deal in which the Rasmussens would have donated half of their horses' winnings, less expenses, to charity, he ultimately decided to give up his license as a horse owner.

The question then became whether the commission could penalize someone that was not licensed. The commission continued the contested case in May to wait for Rasmussen's health to improve. He had bouts of pneumonia in the summer and his overall condition remains tenuous, according to friends and family members.

The Rasmussen horses continued to excel, no matter who's name they ran under. The stable earned more than $730,000 at Prairie Meadows in 2003 to rank second among all owners.

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