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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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DUBUQUE RACING ASSOCIATION. A recipient ofthe FIRST CITIZEN AWARD, the Dubuque Racing Association in 1985 began operations as a community organization. The holder of gambling licenses for DUBUQUE GREYHOUND PARK AND CASINO and the DUBUQUE CASINO BELLE, the association on May 20, 1991 had a 'bond fire' in which a replica mortgage, representing payment of the $7.9 million general obligation bonds used to build the Dubuque Greyhound Park in 1985, was burned.

While the 'bond fire' meant that local taxpayers no longer had to be concerned about the track's debt, the bonds would not be paid off until 1995. DRA officials were prohibited from retiring the entire debt before that date, so the remaining balance due, $2.75 million plus $891,000 interest, was placed in an escrow account at AMERICAN TRUST AND SAVINGS BANK. Despite the presence of other dog tracks, the Dubuque Greyhound Park by 1991 was the only Iowa track to be debt free, fourteen years early, and therefore able to show a profit despite competition. (1)

DRA reported on January 15, 1992, that it was debt-free after paying off $4 million in tax increment bonds owed on the Dubuque ICE HARBOR project.

The Dubuque Racing Association had a $69 million impact on Dubuque by 1992. This included $16.8 million paid to bondholders; a payroll of $14.2 million; $11.6 million paid in purses to kennels and dog owners; $3 million paid to the city in taxes, grants, uncashed mutuel tickets, and rent; and donations to charities.

Reflecting the changing environment of Iowa's gambling industry, in August 1993 the DRA chose to eliminate the position of executive director. The job had been created in 1990 to oversee riverboat gambling and had been filled by Dubuque attorney Sidney Blum. In 1992 DUBUQUE GREYHOUND PARK AND CASINO had lost $850,000 although income from riverboat operations had resulted in a profit of $522,000. Betting and attendance at the track in 1993 had been below estimates and no income had come in from riverboat gambling since the DUBUQUE CASINO BELLE had left. (2)

Contributions to the community continued. In 2015 the Dubuque Racing Association announced they were awarding more than $1.1 million in grants to 176 local charitable organizations. The grants ranged from $985 to $25,000, averaging just over $6,600 with 58 organizations receiving full funding for their projects and 48 schools or school districts receiving more than $257,000, or 22 percent of the grant money. (3)

Directors of the Dubuque Racing Association, the license holder for MYSTIQUE CASINO, on May 17, 2016 approved nearly $1.47 million in grants to 182 area nonprofits. This financial assistance was 26% higher than in 2015. (4)

In May, 2016 the Racing Association announced $1.47 million in grants to 182 area nonprofit organizations. (5) In November, 2016 both the MYSTIQUE CASINO and the DIAMOND JO reported modest year-over-year increases (2.7% and 2.5% respectively) in gaming revenue. Challenges lying ahead in 2017 included new casinos in the Quad Cities and the continued growth of video gaming terminals in Illinois. (6)

Grant funding in 2017 amounted to $1.36 million given to 151 area nonprofit organizations. Half of the funds were received by the organizations in the City of Dubuque. A "future fund" to support long-term, high-cost projects to be determined. Over $500,000 was placed in an endowment fund to ensure the strength of the DRA. (7) Dubuque's two casinos together generated $115.9 million in gambling revenues, an increase of $1.5 million over 2016 and Dubuque's highest total since 2013. Diamond Jo Casino earned a 59% market share. Q Casino generated $47.4 million which was down slightly from the previous year. (8)

In December, 2018 DRA officials announced that its grant-making process was going to be changed. The new plan set minimum and maximum grant amounts. The board also voted to designate a portion of money, to be determined, to be reserved for Dubuque county public and parochial schools. Officials reassured the public that the amount of charitable giving would not be reduced under the new plan. (9)

In 2018 the DRA was the non-profit license-holder for Q Casino and Hotel and the Diamond Jo Casino which together in 2018 generated $9.176 million. It operated Q Casino and Hotel, a facility owned by the City of Dubuque. Profits from the Q went to the city and area charitable organizations through competitive grants. Applications were due in January with awards made in May. In 2018 the DRA announced grant awards totaling $1,220,630 to 145 area charitable organizations. The timetable would not be changed. The minimum application considered under the new plan would be $1,000, but the maximum to be considered was raised to $50,000 capped at $1 million. The members of the board had considered establishing a $2,500 minimum award. In 2018, only 14 of the 260 grant application had been less than $2,500. Concern, however, was expressed that this amount might discourage small organizations. (10)

The DRA also distributed funds later in the year through its DRA Future Fund. Renamed the DRA Special Projects Fund, the award of up to $250,000 would be announced in November. Restrictions added included that organizations receiving money for one project were not eligible for another.The amount of money for schools was to be determined at the annual meeting of the board. (11)

In 2020 the PANDEMIC led the board of directors to approve directing nearly $600,000 to local organizations impacted by the virus. The funds would have usually been directed to the DRA endowment fund. The relocation of the money was contingent on approval of the City of Dubuque which owned Q CASINO RESORT AND HOTEL. If approved the DRA would work with DIAMOND JO CASINO, United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States, and the COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF GREATER DUBUQUE to determine the distribution. In May 2019, the DRAC awarded $1.1 million to 129 local non-profits. In the spring of 2020, the DRA announced that there would be a delay in allocations as the casinos faced the impacts of the pandemic. (12)



1. Webber, Steve. "DRA Has 'Bond Fire' for Track," Telegraph Herald, May 20, 1991, p. 1

2. Bergstrom, Kathy. "Exec Axed," Telegraph Herald, August 11, 1993, p. 1

3. Hanson, Brad. "Dubuque Racing Association Grants $1.1 Million in Grants," KWWL.com Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/29117842/2015/05/20/dubuque-racing-association-grants-11-million-in-grants

4. Montgomery, Jeff. "DRA Gives $1.5 Million," Telegraph Herald, May 18, 2016, p. 1

5. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2017, p. 72

6. Montgomery, Jeff. "Casinos Report Solid November," Telegraph Herald, December 14, 2016, p. 3A

7. Montgomery, Jeff. "DRA Doles Out Nearly $1.36 Million," Telegraph Herald, May 17, 2017, p. 1A

8. Mongomery, Jeff. "DRA: Dubuque Casinos Enjoyed 'Very Good Year,' " Telegraph Herald, January 17, 2018, p. 1A

9. Hogstrom, Erik, "DRA Board Votes to Revamp Grant-Making Process," Telegraph Herald, December 19, 2018, p. 3A

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. "DRA Pledges $590,000 to COVID Relief," Telegraph Herald, October 21, 2020, p. 1A