Time is running out to see and bet on Uncle Six, Hey Now or Joe Loco at Iowa Greyhound Park. Simulcast racing returned to a five-day schedule starting Wednesday.
Live greyhound racing begins this weekend.
But, the start of the 2021 season marks the eventual end of an era in Dubuque, according to Iowa Greyhound Park general manager Brian Carpenter:
“We’ll be at a full season this year. We’re probably going to look at half-a-season next year. Then we’re going to be done because of the shortage of greyhounds now. When they closed Florida down, that kind of was the dagger in the heart.”
Carpenter is referring to 2018’s Amendment 13 vote in Florida — 69% of voters supported a ban on greyhound racing, effective at the start of 2021.
That means fewer simulcast races, fewer trainers, fewer kennels and fewer hounds to sprint around the oval at Iowa’s only greyhound track.
Greyhound racing’s role at Q Casino
A portion of Q Casino is leased and operated by the Iowa Greyhound Association, as Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko explained:
“It’s obviously the racetrack, the kennel compound, the grandstand area and then the indoor area — that would be just inside the grandstand area. They have television seating, betting windows, self-bet machines and a small food stand that individuals can go into.”
Q Casino and Iowa Greyhound Association operate under two separate licenses even though they are under the same roof.
Carpenter explained the process for pari-mutuel betting:
“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 Kentucky Derby here, you can bet on the Preakness and Belmont here. 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.”
Q Casino has more than 40 TVs, and every TV has a different racetrack’s simulcast on it.
“You can just buy the program for the track you want to bet on. Then you go in front of the TV that has your particular horse track or dog track.”
Live greyhound betting in 2021
Windows open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays for dog and horse track simulcasts across the country.
Live greyhound racing starts Saturday in Dubuque. Post times are 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays plus a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee.
Each day features 12-15 races, according to Carpenter:
“We get a lot of families that come down, bet on the dogs, have a lot of fun and enjoy it. You must be at least 21 to bet on the dogs, obviously, but they can bring their family down to sit with them. The other thing is: There’s not many more years left for the greyhound racing. Now’s the time to come in, watch it and enjoy it.”
In 2019, the Iowa Greyhound Association had a handle of about $9 million.
“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.”
Getting the animals ready
Bettors and families can expect to see eight dogs per race. So, 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.
“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. …
“Iowa is a pretty strict state. I’m glad about being strict.”
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.
Some proceeds from live greyhound racing in Dubuque go into a cessation fund as the sport comes to an end, according to Ohorilko.
When Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs and the Iowa Greyhound Association agreed to sunset dog races, they began paying into a cessation fund for greyhound adoptions, kennel removal and other costs.