Jean Callahan, assistant general manager for the Iowa Greyhound Association, helped set up horse-and-dog racing simulcast wagering in Jefferson’s Wild Rose. DOUGLAS BURNS | JEFFERSON HERALD

Horse betting at local casino off and running

By DOUGLAS BURNS

d.burns@carrollspaper.com

Just in time for the Kentucky Derby (which will be run Sept. 5 this year), Wild Rose Jefferson has added simulcast horse and dog racing to its roster of entertainment and wagering choices.

There will be no actual horse or dog track at Jefferson. Rather, Wild Rose patrons can remotely gamble daily on horse and dog racing from around the nation (and sometimes even Canada) through an arrangement with the Iowa Greyhound Association, which operates a track — The Iowa Greyhound Park — and provides live racing in Dubuque.

In the Jefferson casino, races are now telecast in the Coaches Corner bar and restaurant.

“It’s something we’ve been doing in Clinton and I’ve always wanted to add it in Jefferson and Emmetsburg,” said Tom Timmons, president of Iowa-based Wild Rose Casino and Resorts, which operates gaming complexes in all three cities.

The simulcasting — known in the industry as off track betting (OTB) — means that in addition to betting day-to-day tracks from Florida to California, Wild Rose patrons sitting in Jefferson can watch and bet on the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Breeders Cup and other top races.

Wild Rose in recent days added horse and dog simulcasting in Emmetsburg as well.

Casinos in Iowa that don’t already simulcast races or hold the rights to run them, which includes all facilities except Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona and Horseshoe in Council Bluffs, are, under 2014 state legislation, allowed to ink deals with the Iowa Greyhound Association, which has a lease to run live dog races at a Dubuque track and simulcast horse and dog races from around the nation.

The simulcasting rights for the Iowa Greyhound Association emerged with a deal that allowed Horseshoe in Council Bluffs and Mystique in Dubuque to jettison live dog racing.

Wild Rose has a separate arrangement for additional sports betting (on football and basketball, for example) with Draft Kings. The betting takes place in the same area of the casino, though.

“It’s a win-win-win all the way around,” Timmons said.

He sees big opportunities in coming months when, because of COVID-19, which has posed problems for the casino like other businesses, all four major sports — basketball, football, baseball and hockey — could be going at the same time, giving the sports book what could be a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of interest. And on Sept. 5, bettors could wager on the Derby and many other events at the same time.

“It’s really going to be a sports book dream,” Timmons said.

Jean Hallahan, of Dubuque, assistant general manager for the Iowa Greyhound Association, spent much of the past weekend in Jefferson getting wagering on horse and dog racing up and running.

“I think that it could be popular because Jefferson isn’t that far from Tama which used to have an OTB there,” Hallahan said. “And also because they are not that far from Prairie Meadows and there are people from this area that went to Prairie Meadows for wagering (on horses) so I think it will make it closer for them than to have to go all the way to Prairie Meadows.”

Hallahan, a veteran in the greyhound industry, said the races generate excitement and give gamblers better odds than many other forms of wagering as horse-and-dog-racing bets are parimutuel, meaning patrons are essentially playing against each other.

“You are betting into a pool and there are different pools for different types of wagers so you are betting against everybody else that’s betting into that pool,” Hallahan said.

Timmons expects there to be a learning curve with horse and dog racing for Jefferson patrons. But he predicts it will grow in popularity, especially in an agricultural region in which many people’s livelihoods depend on a love for animals and ability to evaluate them.

“I hope it takes off over here,” Timmons said. “It will take a while.”

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