By Dan Johnson
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad May 31 signed into law a bill that will allow casinos to buy out dog racing.
Branstad had delayed signing the bill because of objections from Iowa horsemen over a provision that will let the Iowa Greyhound Association simulcast horse and dog races at Iowa casinos without guaranteeing any of the revenue go to purses for horse racing.
A week earlier he had said: "My concern, I think, the horse industry was left out of this." However, officials from Council Bluffs and Dubuque lobbied strongly for passage of the bill, saying the casinos were spending $13 million per year on Greyhound racing that could otherwise go to charity.
"While we wish something more could have been done, we understand Gov. Branstad's decision," said Jon Moss, executive director of the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "The bill had passed the legislature overwhelmingly. He made it very clear that he expects the bill to be reopened at the beginning of next year."
The bill calls for ending Greyhound racing at Mystique Casino in Dubuque after this season and at Bluffs Run at Horseshoe Casino Jan. 1, 2016. The IGA will be able to sponsor future meets at Dubuque, but will be responsible for the costs.
The casinos will pay $72 million, half to fund the IGA's meets shoudl it decide to operate meets at Dubuque, and half to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, which will determine its use. The commission must use a portion of the money to ensure the transition of dogs that can no longer race, according to the bill.
The biggest chunk of simulcast revenue comes from Bluffs Run, which draws from Omaha, Neb. More than $8.8 million was bet on horse simulcasts at Bluffs Run in 2013, while $972,000 was bet at Dubuque.
The horse and Greyhound interests tried to negotiate an agreement but were far apart. The IGA offered 10% of net revenues, while the Iowa HBPA wanted a third of net revenue or a phased-in rate that would reach 4 cents per dollar bet.
"The governor remains committed to Iowa's horse industry and would welcome legislation in the future to support it," Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers told the Dubuque Herald.