The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

April 2, 2014

Lawmakers should push for greyhound tracks closure

One has to wonder why the Iowa Legislature is even involved.

Iowa’s foray into gambling began in the 1980s when the first greyhound race track opened in Dubuque.

Then and current Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was on hand for the grand opening, which included a parade around the track by the local drum and bugle corps.

It heralded a new industry in Iowa. Other tracks would follow.

Then came riverboat casinos and now, land-based casinos.

Dog racing today pretty much is a thing of the past. Only two tracks remain — the one in Dubuque and another in Council Bluffs. But the operators want to close them. Dog racing doesn’t trip the trigger of gamblers the way slot machines and craps tables do.

But that’s not possible without first getting the permission of lawmakers — and making a multi-million dollar payout to the greyhound industry.

A bill to allow the track owners to close has moved through a House subcommittee, but whether it makes it through the full House, then the Senate, before going to the governor’s blessing is no sure bet.

The bill that passed on a 2-1 vote would allow the track operators to close if they would pay the greyhound industry $70 million.

The greyhound industry is balking. It’s looking for $95 million.

The track owners subsidize their operations to the tune of $13.5 million each year. What other independent and private business is losing that much money but is at the mercy of state lawmakers?

The businesses want to shutter money-losing operations so they can focus on the portion of their operations — casinos — that make money. Lawmakers should remember much of that profit is funneled to the state through fees and taxes. The Legislature should stop meddling.

Businesses should be free to shutter money-losing ventures without a legislative blessing and a $70 million bill to an industry that doesn’t deserve it and hasn’t earned it.

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