By Jerry Crawford
If I were a member of the Iowa Legislature I might be inclined to say, “Lord, let this never-ending argument between the casinos and the greyhound owners end.”
These relationships are a little bit like a marriage. We have all had friends who were going through a divorce. Listening to the bickering from both sides is truly one of life’s unpleasant tasks. Eventually the divorce happens, and when it does, the judge divides the property fairly — usually 50-50.
The Iowa greyhound industry and the state’s racetracks “got married” in 1996. The racing industry (dogs and horses) agreed to marry the racetrack owners and let them become racinos (casinos with racetracks), not just stand-alone racetracks.
In return, the racino owners, who could never have passed the bill giving them casino gaming without the help of the horses and the dogs, agreed to permanently support racing at their facilities. A promise. Much like the marital vow “till death do us part.”
Hardworking men and women in Iowa invested millions of their own dollars, as well as their lives, building farms and an industry based on that promise. They created hundreds of jobs in rural Iowa — jobs that still exist — and built farms that still can be found in close to one-third of Iowa’s 99 counties. They passed on the greyhound trade and way of life, father to son and mother to daughter, based on the racinos’ promise.
The hardworking men and women of the greyhound racing industry fulfilled their covenant.
Unfortunately, the racinos now want to get a divorce. Despite the greyhound industry’s critical role in enabling these racinos to make hundreds of millions of dollars, they no longer want to have to share it with their “spouses” (the racing industry). In Iowa, we have no-fault divorce law and, no matter how unfortunate, people are allowed to get a divorce whether the other side wants it or not.
But here is the catch: In order to get that divorce, the person who wants it must pay the piper. You can’t say to your spouse, the one you pledged to be loyal to forever, “Hey, thanks for the best years of your life, but after all this time spent fulfilling every one of your promises to our family, I am throwing you and the kids out on the street, taking my money
and moving to Las Vegas with the new object of my
We, as Iowans, know that is wrong. It is not fair. If the racinos want their divorce, let them have it. But let’s make them pay the fair price for breaking their solemn vows.
Let me be clear about the difference between Dubuque Greyhound Park and Caesars Casino/Bluffs Run (in Council Bluffs). Dubuque wants to take their financial windfall and invest it back into their community. While we wish they would continue racing, we understand their motive.
Nothing could be further from the truth with Caesars/Bluffs Run. If they get their way, more than 1,000 jobs will be eliminated immediately and they will begin sending tens of millions of dollars, and ultimately hundreds of millions of extra dollars, to Las Vegas where they have racked up the biggest debt in the history of gaming. That’s right, Iowa money will be used to pay off Vegas debts.
The Iowa greyhound industry would rather work for a living than be given “hush money” and go on welfare. That is why we have suggested that if we are going to close the racetracks, then the greyhound industry should be allowed to open one racino in their place.
This allows Iowa farmers to continue to do their jobs. It creates new jobs at the racino. It greatly increases Iowa’s tax base. And it does all this without a penny in state subsidy.
Has the state of Iowa really come to a place where a bloated Las Vegas corporation can throw Iowans off their farms and out of their jobs?
Certainly that is not what a judge in a divorce case would say. A judge would rule in favor of the greyhound industry to allow them to continue working and pursuing their way of life.Jerry Crawford is a Des Moines attorney representing the greyhound industry in Iowa. Comments: Crawford@CrawfordLawFirm.com.