Iowa Greyhound Park Closes Sunday; State’s Dog Days Are Over

Written By Russ Mitchell on May 10, 2022 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022
Iowa Greyhound Park Closes

Folks behind races at Iowa Greyhound Park knew it for years. Their kennels would go empty sooner rather than later.

There are only four days of sprinting dogs and betting slips left in Dubuque.

Post times for the last races in Iowa greyhound history are:

  • 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday
  • 1 p.m. Sunday

Each meet will have 10 races. Both live races and simulcasting will come to an end after the Sunday performance.

Brian Ohorilko serves as administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGG). He has a background in Iowa racetrack operations as well.

“It was just going to be extremely difficult to continue with any sort of meet that looked and felt like what a normal greyhound meet would look like,” he said.

State lawmakers set up the Iowa greyhound pari-mutuel fund during the 2014 legislative session. The Iowa Greyhound Association received half of the funds to conduct live greyhound racing events.

The IRGC controls the other half, which essentially serves as an unemployment benefit for owners and their greyhounds. Proceeds go to no-kill animal shelters for care and adoption of retired greyhounds. The IRGC portion also compensates owners for the removal of equipment at Iowa Greyhound Park.

As Ohorilko said:

“When the greyhound cessation language passed approximately seven or eight years ago, it really did provide for all of those in the Iowa industry to start making arrangements to do different things with their animals or with their farms. It has provided income for many of those in the industry to do that. As we sit here today, there are not many greyhound breeders and owners left in the state of Iowa.”

End of an era at Iowa Greyhound Park

Greyhound racing has been a way of life for Brian Carpenter. Over a 38-year career, he held just about every position at the track. He’s a longtime director of racing and spent the last eight years as Iowa Greyhound Park’s general manager as well.

He thanked and updated greyhound racing supporters about the end of the sport in a Sept. 19 Facebook post. The 2022 season won’t play out over the entire summer, as it has in past years. The one-month schedule in 2022 serves as a curtain call for 38 seasons of racing in Dubuque.

“It’s a sad day to see,” Carpenter told PlayIA at the start of the phase-out. “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.”

Closing the books in Dubuque

As owners close the kennels at Iowa Greyhound Park, the IRGC will help the industry close out its books one final time.

Iowa greyhound racing generated about $16 million in 2020 bets, followed by about $22.5 million last season. A shorter season will amount to a shorter handle in 2022, however. Ohorilko said:

“What’s important now is just to make sure that all of those animals that have come to the state either end up at another race track — and remember there are only two states left — or find a place to retire. That typically is the focus when we see a greyhound track shut down. Iowa had had a lot of success in finding adoption facilities.”

Anyone with winning tickets and vouchers can cash them in while the track is in operation. Starting May 17, customers can mail their winning tickets and vouchers to the Iowa Greyhound Association. The deadline is July 9.

The end of greyhound racing could have an impact on horse betting in Iowa, too.

Wild Rose Casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson offer off-track betting through an agreement with the Iowa Greyhound Association. Once Iowa Greyhound Park closes down, the Wild Rose properties may need to reach an agreement with either Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona or  Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino.

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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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