By Dan Johnson
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he is unsure whether he will sign legislation that would allow casinos to buy out Greyhound racing because of an objection raised by horse interests over full-card simulcasts.
The bill calls for the Bluffs Run and Dubuque racetrack casinos to pay $72 million into a fund for Greyhound owners. In return, the two tracks will stop offering Greyhound racing by the end of 2015.
The Iowa Greyhound Association in turn can use half of the fund to sponsor its own meets at Dubuque. The IGA would also be allowed to simulcast horse and dog races at Dubuque and any of 24 other casinos in the state.
The Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association contends a portion of the horse racing simulcast revenue should go to horse racing at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, but the two sides have been unable to agree on an amount.
The IGA offered 10% of net revenue, while the Iowa HBPA wanted 33%. Then the HBPA asked for four cents per dollar bet on horse races. When no deal was reached, the Iowa HBPA asked its members to write Branstad with their objections.
During Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" show that aired May 25, Branstad questioned whether the deal was fair to horse owners.
"My concern, I think, is the horse industry was left out of this," Branstad said. "There is a provision that deals with simulcasting, and there is some concern that I'm hearing from my friends in the horse industry. I've always been close to them. We have a very big and significant horse industry in the state of Iowa. I'm reviewing the legislation.
"I want to do something that's fair to all the communities involved and fair to all the parties. I have not made a final decision."
Bluffs Run and Dubuque currently offer full-card simulcasts. Dubuque had $972,000 in betting on horse races last year. Bluffs Run, which draws from the Omaha, Neb., market, took in $8.8 million. None of the revenue goes to Prairie Meadows.
"Our board is adamant about getting a cut of the money," said Leroy Gessmann, president of the Iowa HBPA. "They should be paying us for (Bluffs Run) alone between $300,000 and $400,000 a year."
Jerry Crawford, whose Donegal Racing stable has campaigned horses such as Paddy O'Prado and Dullahan, is an attorney for the Greyhound owners. He said the horse owners have other advantages that dog owners do not, such as a fixed percentage of Prairie Meadows' casino revenue and advance deposit wagering. And he said the IGA would bear the expense of operating the simulcast outlets at casinos.
"The horsemen wouldn't lose a cent from the simulcasting provision in the bill," Crawford said. "It would be all new revenue if the governor signed the bill."