BELLEVUE, Iowa (AP) — Some Iowa greyhound breeders fear financial damage if lawmakers were to approve a bill that would halt casino subsidies that are propping up dog racing.

Melissa Schmidt of Bellevue said she and her husband, Dan, operate a kennel on their cattle farm and have spent years raising racing dogs.

She told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald a proposal being considered by lawmakers to end casino-subsidized racing at tracks in Dubuque and Council Bluffs would be devastating for her family.

“I think it would put us into financial ruin, especially with having six kids and all the money we have invested in our farm,” she said. “We could race in other states, but the hauling and the amount of dogs that we have on our farm, to go into other venues ... would really hurt our bottom line tremendously. I don’t know how we could recover from it.”

The Iowa Greyhound Association maintains the industry has created more than 1,200 jobs statewide and has an economic impact of $77 million a year. Iowa has more than 60 kennels, according to the association.

“All of these jobs and the economic benefit they provide Iowa will be lost if racing ends — a result that is not required,” association attorney Jerry Crawford wrote in an email.

But the managers of Mystique Casino in Dubuque and the Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino have long pushed to end state-mandated subsides for the money-losing tracks, arguing that such a move would leave more money to fund charities and local government operations.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would require the casinos to pay $70 million to greyhound owners and breeds in exchange for an end to the racing requirement.

Although attendance has dropped dramatically in the past decade at Iowa’s two greyhound tracks, Schmidt argues the industry could rebound with more promotion of the racing.

Ending racing ultimately would hurt Mystique Casino in Dubuque, she said, because it’s the dogs that differentiate the center from other casinos.


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