Gaming commission OKs license for Iowa dog racing

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Live dog racing could have a home in Iowa for the next few years, a state commission said Thursday in issuing a license that gives a trade group authority to run the soon-to-be last dog racetrack in the state.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved a racetrack license for pari-mutuel wagering to the Iowa Greyhound Association during a monthly meeting in Altoona. It gives the group authority to operate the Dubuque Greyhound Park at Mystique Casino.

Commission administrator Brian J. Ohorilko said the IGA will need to update racing officials on several key issues before they can be operational on Jan. 1 for simulcasting. Live races next year are scheduled to run between late April and late October.

''They have some work that they need to get done between now and when they want to open in January,'' he said.

Among those conditions is updated information on security plans and how they will maintain the kennel compound and racetrack. The IGA has also not entered into any agreements for simulcasting.

''Those are all things that are typically subject to commission approval,'' Ohorilko said.

IGA president Bob Hardison said he couldn't comment on how the group will ensure it meets all the required conditions.

''We have a lot of work to do to get everything lined up,'' he said.

The IGA had said in its license application that it intended to utilize existing racetrack facilities. While the IGA has entered into a lease agreement for the space, it's still negotiating other terms, Ohorilko said.

A state law approved earlier this year gave the IGA an initial nod to run dog racing at Dubuque beginning in 2015. Still, the commission needed to formally approve the racetrack license before the nonprofit group could proceed.

The racetrack in Dubuque is one of just two racetracks in the state. The other, at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino, will close at the end of 2015 as part of the law. That means Dubuque will be the sole location for live dog racing in the state beginning in 2016.

The law relinquishes Mystique and the Council Bluffs casino from having to pay subsidies that help keep dog racing afloat in the state. In exchange, the casinos must pay $72 million over several years that will be split between the IGA and dog breeders and owners.

It means the IGA will have $36 million to operate the racetrack. The group said in its application that ''this dedicated fund is more than enough to cover operations for live racing for the first five year lease the IGA will enter regarding the facility.''

Despite this, Ohorilko said further proof of adequate financing still needs to be met, ''just to make sure that they have the means and wherewithal to do what they're telling us that they want to do.''

Though the license will need to be renewed annually, the commission's decision Thursday sets up live dog racing in the state for several years. The IGA was the only group seeking the license, a fact that Ohorilko said did not create pressure to approve it.

''We just looked at the application at hand,'' he said. ''I don't think there was anything else .... that went into the decision-making.''