Congress Mulls End To Greyhound Bets, But Iowa Is Phasing Out Dog Racing Anyway

Posted By Russ Mitchell on July 28, 2021 - Last Updated on July 29, 2021

At the start of the 2021 season, Iowa Greyhound Park general manager Brian Carpenter told PlayIA, “there’s not many more years left for greyhound racing.” He added, “now’s the time to come in, watch it and enjoy it.”

He had Iowa — and his Dubuque track near Q Casino — in mind when he made the remarks in April. The 2021 season is underway, and then a partial 2022 season will close out Iowa’s greyhound racing history for good.

Some members of Congress have an even larger shutdown in mind.

The Greyhound Protection Act of 2021 was introduced May 19 by US Rep. Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat serving California’s 29th District. Six members of Congress sponsored the bill. It’s in the House Judiciary Committee’s hands for review.

Specifically, the Greyhound Protection Act would prohibit the “use of wire communications for the purpose of gambling on live, commercial greyhound racing and open-field coursing events.” Greyhound racetrack operators rely on those “internet wire communications” to:

  • Calculate odds
  • Broadcast races
  • Announce winners
  • Pay out winnings

The legislation would take greyhound racing simulcasts and bets off the menu at a national level.

Dubuque greyhound races draw nationwide bets

Many of the Greyhound Protection Act sponsors are members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

Cárdenas said:

“Greyhound racing is cruel and must end. These docile animals are kept in stacked cages for 20 hours or more a day and are subjected to brutal training practices and races, facing the risk of injury and death at every turn. My bipartisan bill allows for a sensible wind-down of an already-declining industry that will ultimately outlaw greyhound racing. As a longtime animal welfare advocate, I am always committed to speaking up for the voiceless.”

Q Casino has more than 40 TVs, and every TV has a different racetrack’s simulcast on it, according to Carpenter.

About 120 dogs run each evening or matinee at Iowa Greyhound Park. Dogs average a start per week or perhaps three starts every two weeks. That means about 500 greyhounds are on hand for draws in Dubuque.

Carpenter recently told PlayIA: “Iowa is a pretty strict state. I’m glad about being strict.” He added,

“Two state stewards here make sure we follow all of the rules and keep an eye on us. And then they do surprise visits for the kennel. When we’re running live racing, we also have a state vet on hand to make sure that everybody’s healthy. They drug test all of them.”

Congress hears about greyhound abuse

Authors of the Greyhound Protection Act described a grim environment for the sport in general. The bill points to public records that suggest:

  • Some racing greyhounds suffer serious injuries, including broken backs and necks, head trauma, seizures and electrocution.
  • Greyhounds have tested positive for cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, opioids and steroids.
  • The dogs are confined for 20-23 hours per day in stacked metal cages.

“Greyhound racing has an inhumane track record,” US Rep. Mike Waltz, a Republican from Florida’s 6th District, said. “The state of Florida, like nearly all states, has banned greyhound racing because Floridians respect our canine friends. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to ensure the health and safety of dogs across the country.”

Dog races were already ending in Iowa

The greyhound ban in Florida contributed to the planned end of live racing in Iowa: “That kind of was the dagger in the heart,” Carpenter said.

The 2018 Amendment 13 vote in Florida officially put the racing of fast pups out to pasture. About 69% of voters supported a ban on greyhound racing, effective at the start of 2021.

It meant fewer simulcast races, fewer trainers, fewer kennels and fewer hounds to sprint around the oval at Iowa’s only greyhound track.

In April, Carpenter explained the process for pari-mutuel betting in Iowa:

“You can bet on horse tracks and dog tracks across the country or you can bet on our live racing. You would just come down into our grandstand area. We have mutuel tellers, or you have self-teller machines, whichever you prefer. If you’re not sure how to bet, I’d recommend our tellers and they can help.

“First, you get a program, look at the race, decide what you want to bet. There’s win-place-show and then there’s all kinds of other bets like trifecta and superfecta. Then you can talk to our (pari-)mutuel tellers, and they’d be more than happy to help you out. …

“You can bet on other horse tracks across the country and you can bet on the other three dog tracks that are left in the country right now.”

Cárdenas said the last greyhound track in Arkansas will close this year. Iowa and West Virginia will be the last two states with live greyhound races.

In 2019, the Iowa Greyhound Association had a handle of about $9 million.

Carpenter said:

“Last year, we did $16 million total and we’re hoping this year should be over $20 million — easily — with so few dog tracks in the country.”

Live greyhound betting schedule in 2021

Races at Iowa Greyhound Park begin every 11 to 13 minutes. A greyhound’s times at the Iowa track and from other racetracks help set the betting odds. Greyhounds lining up for a maiden race need at least two trial races — called schooling lines — to establish odds.

Windows open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays for dog and horse track simulcasts across the country.

Post times for live greyhound races are 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays plus a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee. Each day features 12-15 races.

Photo by Brynn Anderson / 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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