Iowa, Dubuque Prepare For State’s Final Live Greyhound Races

Written By Russ Mitchell on October 22, 2021

The schedule for live greyhound races in 2022 is set, and time is running out for dog racing fans in Iowa.

On Thursday, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved the license for a one-month, 18-meet schedule next year in Dubuque.

The shortened 2022 season begins April 16 — the Saturday before Easter — and ends on May 15, a week after Mother’s Day.

Iowa Greyhound Park’s Brian Carpenter said the track will maintain the current racing schedule in 2022:

  • 5:30 p.m. — Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
  • 1 p.m. on Sundays

The meets will feature 10 races instead of 15, according to the general manager and director of racing in Dubuque:

“When Florida closed their tracks down, everybody stopped breeding. And we knew we were going to be quite short of dogs for next year. Since this year was a full year, we added a couple of extra weeks onto this year — and added extra purse money onto this year. And then we are just going to go with a short season next year with four-and-a-half weeks — 18 performances — and just try to finish it out.”

The final live greyhound races of the longer 2021 season are Oct. 23-24, Oct. 27-28 and Oct. 30-31.

Starting Nov. 5, simulcast horse racing and greyhound racing will change at Iowa Greyhound Park as well. They’ll go with a Friday-through-Sunday schedule in the off-season. During the summer season, pari-mutuel windows are open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

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Other tracks will see final greyhound races, too

Greyhound racing has been a way of life for Carpenter. Over a 37-year career, he held just about every position at the track. He’s a longtime director of racing and spent the last seven years as Iowa Greyhound Park’s general manager as well.

“It’s a sad day to see. You know, I started at 16, got married, raised five kids and put them all through school. It’s kind of hard to see something that you dedicated your whole life to coming to an end. … Someday, I was hoping that I could take my grandkids to a track and say ‘here’s what your grandfather used to do,’ but that won’t be happening now.”

Iowa Greyhound Park is one of only four tracks around the country that still holds live greyhound races. Carpenter said the Southland Casino Racing track in West Memphis, AR, also plans to end live greyhound races in 2022.

“Then West Virginia will be the last two tracks left, I believe it’s Wheeling (Island track in Wheeling, WV) and Tri-State (in Cross Lanes, WV). But I have a feeling that they will only last a few more years after that. And then I think there will be no more dog racing in the country at all.”

Betting options after Iowa greyhound races end

Iowa Greyhound Park and Q Casino in Dubuque will continue horse and greyhound simulcasts after the live greyhound races end.

In fact, Iowa Greyhound Park will begin November by simulcasting the Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred Championships from Del Mar, CA. Race wagers will even be available New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Dubuque. Carpenter said:

“We will be simulcasting up to closing day with the horse tracks and the dog track signals coming in, but once May 15 comes, we’ll be closing down everything. We will be completely closed. But there are places here in the state of Iowa — the Wild Rose properties — that have simulcasts. They have OTBs (off-track betting) at their casinos, so they’ll still be open.”

The Wild Rose locations are in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson. Carpenter thinks many of his racing customers will travel to the nearby Clinton location for OTB opportunities.

The IRGC also approved 2022 pari-mutuel licenses for Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona and Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino at Thursday’s meeting.

Iowa greyhounds will ‘move on’ as races end

The Iowa Greyhound Association reported stable attendance and even an increased handle at the greyhound track in Dubuque, according to IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko. Like Carpenter, Ohorilko said a shortage of animals helped doom any live races in Iowa.

“There’s still a couple of other racetracks that are racing. Arkansas will be racing and West Virginia will be racing. So some of those greyhounds will move on. A number of greyhounds will be put up for adoption. And I would expect that we’ll see some funding directed to help with that — to make sure that all of the animals find a place to go after racing.”

Carpenter said the city of Dubuque hasn’t announced plans for the greyhound racetrack. He doesn’t know what his next career move will be, either. Carpenter has casino experience, but time at the track will be hard to replace:

“Every once in a while I’ll catch myself going out to the first turn to watch a race. I’m just going to miss some of that stuff.”

Photo by Nati Harnik / AP file photo
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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