The West Virginia Legislature March 14 passed a fiscal year 2014-15 budget that will redirect 10% of racing's share of gaming revenue to other programs.
The bill passed the House of Delegates on a 75-16 vote and the Senate by a 29-5 margin. It is expected to be signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who earlier proposed that a portion of gaming revenue be used to compensate for funding shortfalls.
In addition, the measure makes permanent a nine-year-old shift of video lottery terminal revenue to pay for the state workers' compensation program. That reduction, which at the outset took about $11 million in total purses per year from the state's four racetracks, was to sunset when the workers' comp fund was made whole.
For fiscal year 2015, regular racetrack purses at Thoroughbred and Greyhound tracks would drop $4.87 million based on current gaming proceeds from VLTs and table games. The Thoroughbred breeding fund would take a $538,000 hit, while the Greyhound breeding fund would lose about $366,000.
The projected loss to purse and breeding development funds is $5.77 million. It could have been higher; racing interests successfully lobbied to reduce the take from 15%.
The racetracks themselves will lose 10% of the revenue that goes to the video lottery Racetrack Modernization Fund, which reimburses them for upgrades including purchasing the latest VLTs. That amount will drop from $10 million a year to $9 million a year.
It appears funding for the West Virginia Racing Commission remains intact.
The diversion of funds comes at a time when the state's four racetrack gaming facilities, including Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, are facing intense competition from casinos in neighboring states. Gambling halls in Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have attracted customers that used to frequent the West Virginia racetrack casinos.