Racing, Others Oppose VLT Revenue Shift in WV

It's the latest attempt by the state legislature to reallocate funds.

Racing stakeholders and government officials Feb. 4 publicly stated their opposition to legislation that would shift 15% of video lottery and table games revenue to fund other programs in West Virginia.

The bill was heard before the House Finance Committee. It is also making its way through Senate committees.

The measure calls for a 15% reduction in the amount of table games revenue that goes to purses and breed development programs for Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing. That provision was opposed by owners, breeders, trainers, and even the Jockeys' Guild.

Horse and dog racing already have lost tens of millions of dollars in video lottery terminal revenue because several years ago a percentage was taken to fund workers' compensation in the state. The provision was supposed to sunset but never did.

Jana Tetrault, executive director of the Mountaineer Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said her family decided to move to Hancock County, where Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort is located, in 2000 to take advantage of the growing racing and breeding industry. She said her family purchased a 70-acre farm and developed it into a training center.

Tetrault said other individuals and families have moved to the county because of horse racing, and they pay taxes, have businesses, and support the local community.

"These people have families who depend on racing," she said.

Larry Reed, who left Pennsylvania and moved to Hancock County and operates a racing stable, said he has purchased multiple farms over the years and has invested in the local community. He said if the state continues taking money from the racing fund, his property "will be on the block and I'm out of here."

Kennel owners and Greyhound trainers offered similar testimony.

In addition, employee pension plans at all four racetracks in West Virginia would see their contribution from VLT revenue drop from 4% to 3.4%, according to a summary of the legislation.

Local and county government officials noted other areas impacted by the legislation, including a reduction in the West Virginia Infrastructure Fund from $40 million to $20 million per fiscal year. They noted it includes money for water supply upgrades and comes not long after a major chemical spill polluted two rivers in the Charleston area.