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    Posted byadmin on Tuesday, April 13 @ 22:01:29 EDT
    Contributed by admin

    An attempt to end dog racing in the state could boost attendance at Iowa's greyhound parks.

    The sight of young pups churning the track appeared to leave a turbulent off-season in the dust Friday at Mystique Casino & Greyhound Park.

    The greyhounds are back for the 26th full season of live racing in Dubuque, despite Harrah's Casino's lobbying efforts in the Iowa Legislature to shut down the industry as of July 1.

    "I think all the good, bad and ugly over the winter fired the city up a little bit," said Joe Lent, of Dubuque's River Bluffs Kennel. "I think people are going to come and see what dog racing is about all over again."

    Harrah's encouraged state lawmakers to end greyhound racing in Iowa and offered $7 million per year over seven years to do so, but the bill didn't make it out of committee. The Dubuque Racing Association would have paid the state $3 million per year over seven years under the plan.

    An amended version of the bill that eliminated the payments made it to the House floor, but did not see action.

    Brad Boeckenstedt, of Boeckenstedt Kennel near Bellevue, Iowa, said the negative publicity apparently sparked attendance at Bluffs Run in Council Bluffs, which is owned by Harrah's.

    "Attendance and wagering has been through the roof," Boeckenstedt said.

    Boeckenstedt went to Des Moines and lobbied for the industry, which he said supports "a lot of great Iowa families." He has been racing in Dubuque for nine seasons, but his link to the track runs deeper. In 1985, Boeckenstedt helped construct the facility, including the rail and the racetrack itself.

    "I was one of the first guys here when this was nothing but sand," Boeckenstedt said. "It has a lot of sentimental value. It's a beautiful facility."

    The season opens at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 24. Kennel owners and track officials anticipate better attendance since Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wis., closed Dec. 31. Wisconsin once had five tracks and now has none. Simulcast wagering increased last winter, and Director of Racing Brian Carpenter said Wisconsin race fans made some of the difference.

    "We've talked to a lot of people from Wisconsin since Dairyland closed, and we're excited to see them," Carpenter said. "We've advertised in that area to let people know to come down here."

    Dave Ungs, of Copper Kettle Kennel, said Mystique and the DRA could miss an opportunity to revive interest in racing because it isn't promoted well enough.

    "Everybody in town thought we were closed," Ungs said. "We're not on the main sign out front. Since they redid the seating, we're hidden in the casino, also. They don't have to give us all of our seating back, but they could make it a sloped grandstand again."

    Ungs isn't envisioning 1980s-level wagering, but does believe the track could be better utilized in the casino's marketing strategy.

    "I'm not saying racing would be profitable, but they hold these concerts and lose a bunch of money just to get people in the door," Ungs said. "Racing brings people in the door every day."

    Just like spring training for baseball fans, hope springs eternal as greyhound enthusiasts watch preseason schooling races.

    "My personal opinion is that greyhound racing will be here after I'm gone," Lent said. "I think the people of Dubuque love the place. The dogs made this place, and I can't believe the Legislature or the voters or anyone else is going to run them out. Management is just going to have to put up with us."

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