Charles Town HBPA Wants Court to Void Pact

The Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said July 8 it has asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to void an interagency agreement approved by the state racing and lottery commissions in June.

The horsemen's group filed what is called a writ of mandamus July 7.

The Charles Town HBPA has publicly opposed the interagency agreement, which it claims gives many of the West Virginia Racing Commission's statutory duties, including responsibility for the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing, to the West Virginia Lottery Commission. The latter oversees video lottery terminals and table games at the state's four racetracks.

Both agencies fall under the West VIrginia Department of Revenue, which also signed off on the agreement.

"Those rules govern all of Thoroughbred horse racing and directly affect the livelihood of Jefferson County's horse owners and trainers," the Charles Town HBPA said.

The interagency agreement was approved by the three-member WVRC in June, but not before several months of delay. Earlier, two commissioners voted against it because they were uncomfortable with language that was later revised.

The document states the WVRC can request assistance from the lottery commission. The Charles Town HBPA, however, said the WVRC should have consulted with the state Attorney General's office on the agreement, which it claims "delegated many of the constitutional responsibilities of the attorney general" to in-house legal counsel at the lottery commission.

"What the racing commission has done clearly violates the West Virginia constitution's requirement for separation of powers," Charles Town HBPA attorney, David Hammer said in a release. "The attorney general is a constitutional officer who has the responsibility to advise state agencies. This is a power grab by the executive branch of state government, plain and simple."

Hammer said the state Supreme Court is in recess, but a justice is assigned to handle emergencies. He said he believes the matter will get "prompt attention."

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