Though few people were surprised by the news that greyhound racing in Dubuque will end next year, it’s notable to give credit to this industry that has played a unique role in the community’s history.
Iowa Greyhound Park General Manager and Director of Racing Brian Carpenter told the Telegraph Herald last week that the 2022 season will be the park’s last, calling the decision to cease racing “a done deal.” The shortage of available greyhounds is among the chief reasons for the end of Iowa Greyhound Park and the collapse of the racing industry as a whole.
That’s a far different picture than the one greyhound racing created in Dubuque in the 1980s.
Forty years ago, when the Dubuque economy was struggling mightily and the city was experiencing the highest unemployment in the nation, a plan emerged that would bring hope, excitement, jobs and visitors to the community. Dubuque went to the dogs. Citizens voted to tax themselves, and some civic leaders even took out second mortgages, so this community could secure a license for parimutuel greyhound racing.
Most people around here know what happened next.
Opened in June 1985, the city-owned Dubuque Greyhound Park, operated by the nonprofit Dubuque Racing Association, became a key element in the community’s turnaround. Its success meant more than money raised for local charities, new jobs and a boost for ancillary businesses. The track’s success reached into the hearts and minds of this community. During the dark days of the mid-1980s, Dubuque Greyhound Park became a shining light, a confidence-building beacon signaling that, working together, Dubuquers could recover from adversity.
And to think so much of this success was due to parimutuel greyhound racing.
Today, however, the story is quite different. The ledger shows that parimutuel racing, which once provided a financial and psychological boost for this community, became a fiscal drain for this community. After years of parimutuel greyhound racing being a money-losing proposition, Dubuque’s Mystique Casino & Resort — now Q Casino and Hotel — and the casino in Council Bluffs reached a settlement allowing the casinos to sever ties with the greyhound industry in 2014.
As part of this deal, Council Bluffs agreed to pay an annual
$4.6 million subsidy to Iowa Greyhound Park through 2022, while Q Casino agreed to pay a yearly subsidy of $500,000 through 2021.
It was those subsidies that allowed the park to stay in the black thus far. But greyhound racing never managed to make it on its own.
As we mark the waning days of greyhound racing in Dubuque, we acknowledge that its time has come, but also that it was parimutuel greyhound racing that helped fuel Dubuque’s recovery in the 1980s.