WV Racing to Have Role in Legislative Review

The racing commission June 2 formed a committee to develop new approaches.

The West Virginia Racing Commission June 2 authorized creation of a committee that will be charged with providing information to a legislative select committee that will undertake a comprehensive study of the state's racing and gaming industries.

The resolution to create the committee was offered by WVRC member Bill Phillips. The 20 members will represent Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing, as well as racetrack gaming operations and state tourism.

The committee must meet within 15 days of passage of the resolution and provide a written report to the WVRC by Sept. 1 of this year. WVRC chairman Jack Rossi, who will chair the new committee, said June 2 an organizational meeting will be held June 16.

The committee "will be charged to develop innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to assist the select committee, (with) a goal being to maintain and grow the contribution the racing industry is making to the economy of West Virginia," the resolution states. "In addition, their work should include ideas and concepts to address the current challenging environment faced by the industry."

The committee will establish subcommittees that will focus on economic growth and revenue enhancement; marketing; modernizing the horseracing code; and racing calendars and schedules. Racing industry stakeholders in West Virginia already have floated advance deposit wagering, historical race wagering, and off-track betting as options for revenue growth.

The state's four racetracks have video lottery terminals and table games, a shrinking percentage of which goes to purses and breed development.

Gaming revenue is down because of competition from new casinos in neighboring states. On the racing side, pari-mutuel handle and field size have declined, which have led Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort to request WVRC approval to reduce racing dates.

According to the latest annual report from the West Virginia Lottery, which oversees VLTs and table games at the tracks, VLT revenue in 2014 was down $64.9 million (9.9%) from 2013. Revenue in 2013 was down $109.2 million (14.3%) from 2012.

Revenue from table games in 2014 was down $19.8 million (28.2%) from 2013, and in 2013 was down $7.9 million (10.1%) from 2012, according to the annual report.

In follow-up comments, Phillips said the industry must develop a "common view" and assist the legislature in finding answers to problems faced by racing and gaming in the state. He also said it's time to look to the future.

"We need to see how the Greyhound and Thoroughbred industries can blend into the future, and maybe even become leaders for tracks of our size and make a contribution to the racing industry as a whole," Phillips said.