05/09/2003 12:00AM

Iowa racing chairman resigns


ALTOONA, Iowa - Jim Rasmussen announced his resignation as chairman of the board of the Racing Association of Central Iowa on Friday. The association operates Prairie Meadows racetrack and casino.

The resignation comes several months after the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation revealed evidence that Rasmussen and his two sons had placed bets on football games with a local bookmaker. Rasmussen reportedly paid off a debt of several thousand dollars that he and his sons had compiled.

Although no criminal charges have been filed against Rasmussen, the racing association board scheduled a hearing on the matter for May 15, according to Rasmussen's attorney, Maggi Moss.

There has been intense media coverage of the story in the Des Moines area since the story broke, and many community leaders have called for Rasmussen's resignation.

Rasmussen, who has battled cancer for the past several years, said his resignation was in the best interest of Prairie Meadows and racing. Rasmussen's service on the board dates back to 1993. He has been the chairman since 1995.

Although the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has yet to take any action against Rasmussen, Moss is in negotiations with the commission that involve the status of Rasmussen's horse owner's license.

Rasmussen runs a large stable under the name River Ridge Ranch, which he owns in partnership with his wife, Sandra. River Ridge Ranch was the leading owner at Prairie Meadows last year in earnings with over $694,000.

Gary Lucas, who has served as vice chairman of the association since 2001, will act as interim chairman until a new chairman is elected by the board.