Changing the verbiage doesn’t change the reality

Officials from Harrah’s organized a news conference at the statehouse today to launch a new gambit.  Harrah’s wants the state to end greyhound racing.  (Harrah’s “runs” the Bluffs Run in Council Bluffs.)  A bill that would end greyhound racing at Bluffs Run and at the track in Dubuque has stalled in the legislature.  As originally drafted, that bill included a one-time, $10 million payment to the state from Bluffs Run and Dubuque ($7 million from Bluffs Run, $3 million from Dubuque).  That proposed $10 million payment was stripped from the bill, however, and the bill appears to be in limbo.  

James Carney, a lobbyist for Harrah’s, was asked during the news conference about the controversy that payment (some called it a “pay off”) had generated and how today’s newly-offered, $7 million per year payment from Harrah’s would change the dynamic.  Carney suggested the $10 million, one-time payment in the original bill had been mischaracterized, and he said the new, annual payment of $7 million was a “relicensing fee.”

However it may be characterized, a key lawmaker just told me it’s going nowhere. Legislators don’t like the appearance of a “pay off.” Harrah’s had tried the backdoor route with legislators until today and although they staged a public event (a news conference), Harrah’s continues to present their argument about greyhound racing in public and in private in the same way.  For Harrah’s, it’s simply a money issue: they lose money on the 301 days of greyhound racing at the Bluffs Run track and few, if any people show up to watch.   The Harrah’s executives and their lobbyist probably don’t dare cast the end of greyhound racing in Iowa a gambling contraction issue, nor have they embraced the arguments of those who contend greyhound racing is inhumane to the animals.  

The greyhound industry, meanwhile, argues kennels contribute $41 million to the economy each year and that many of the nation’s top greyhound racers were raised in Iowa.  An estimated 10 percent of the greyhounds who race in the U.S. come from Iowa kennels and/or Iowa breeders.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.