The once-proud tradition of greyhound racing took another hit as Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque began its final season. The season ends May 15, according to news outlet KCCI Des Moines.
Beanie Baumover said his social life has depended on the park. “I’ve been retired for 13 years so I’ve been coming here for 13 years.” Baumover said, “I meet a lot of people down here. You can go out to eat with them and have fun with them and bum around.”
The racing park is one of only four in the country, according to KCRG.
David Ungs bought his first greyhound in 1987 and has been a kennel owner at the park since 1993. The demise of greyhound racing can be traced in large measure to the rise of other forms of legal gambling.
“We started out, you know, there wasn’t a lottery and then there was,” Ungs said. “Five racetracks came into Wisconsin. Then after that, it was the casinos and now it’s sports betting. It’s just natural.”
Brian Carpenter, the park’s general manager, said a ban on greyhound racing put in place in Florida in 2020 impacted the decision in Iowa.
“Once Florida closed down, was kind of the dagger in the heart of greyhound racing and people stopped breeding. So, there’s going to be a shortage of dogs, which we’re already seeing now,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said it was no longer financially feasible to keep the park open.
For Jeff Mergen, the end means the end of his job as the announcer at the track. Mergen started with Dubuque greyhound track in 1986, one year after it was first built, said KWWL.
“It was incredible the business that was being done,” Mergen said. “And it’s just what Dubuque needed, and the area needed because of all the layoffs there were here in town.”
The Iowa Greyhound Park, at the time known as the Dubuque Greyhound Park, helped revive the city’s economy after it faced a recession in the early 80s. The park accepted tens of millions in bets each year in the late 80s and only 3 million in 2000.
The amount of money bet on the races per year hasn’t broken $2 million in the last decade.
After working as a greyhound announcer for 27 years, Mergen just hopes people took something away from his work.
“People don’t listen to the race as much as much as they watch it,” Mergen said. “But hopefully I’ve given them some background excitement through the years.”