WV Analysis: Purses Can't Support Race Dates

Projections for 2016 show purses would drop under existing allotment of dates.

A West Virginia Racing Commission purse analysis based on revenue projections from all sources indicates the state and its racetracks have serious issues to address regarding live racing dates in the future.

The analysis, discussed during the April 21 WVRC meeting, projects purses for the state's two Thoroughbred racetracks based on various scenarios on racing dates. Revenue from all sources—video lottery terminals, table games, and pari-mutuel wagering—is expected to continue to trend downward.

In 2016, if the projections hold, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races would be able to pay about $98,000 per night in purses if it raced the statutory minimum of 220 programs. In 2014, for 192 programs, Charles Town averaged $171,000 in purses per day.

If Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort runs its current allotment of 210 nights in 2016, purses would average about $71,000 per card. Last year purses averaged about $119,000 a day for 195 programs.

WVRC executive director John Myers noted the projections don't include purse expenditures for the state's two major races—the Charles Town Classic and West Virginia Derby, both grade II—because they would skew the overnight purse projections.

Myers said it appears about $49 million will be available for purses for all tracks, including two Greyhound facilities, in 2016. The figure includes the latest state-imposed reduction of about $3 million that would be taken from purses to support the state budget.

The analysis indicates the total contribution to purses from pari-mutuel sources in 2016 to be about $9 million, or roughly one-fifth of total purses.

Before legislative reductions in purse revenue and gaming competition in neighboring states became a reality, purses at Charles Town topped $40 million a year, and at Mountaineer about $36 million. The WVRC analysis puts Charles Town at about $23 million next year, and Mountaineer at about $15 million.

"You can manage what you know you've got to deal with," Myers said. "It looks like we've got some work to do the next couple of months (on racing dates)."

Charles Town already received approval to cut its schedule to 193 nights of racing for 2015. But to maintain average daily purse levels of 2014, it would have to offer only 130 live racing programs in 2016.

Mountaineer, which is expected to soon submit a request for a reduction in dates for this year, would have to race 130 programs next year to maintain its 2014 purse structure.