WV Commission Signs Off on Interagency Deal

The racing commission will be able to request assistance from the lottery commission.

The West Virginia Racing Commission June 18 unanimously approved an "interagency agreement" that will allow it to request assistance from the West Virginia Lottery Commission, which oversees video lottery terminals and table games at the state's four racetracks.

The agreement had been considered for months and met with resistance from groups that represent Thoroughbred and Greyhound owners, breeders, and trainers. The groups expressed concern the deal could lead to lottery officials taking over regulation of pari-mutuel racing in West Virginia.

The document states the lottery commission can provide, upon request, services related to accounting and financial support, internal auditing and research, administrative advising, special investigative services, and racetrack investigative services. It lists the hourly rates the WVRC must pay lottery employees should it use the services.

The document states the agreement can be amended with approval from the WVRC, lottery commission, and Secretary of Revenue. It also says either party can terminate the agreement at any time with 30 days' written notice.

During the May meeting of the WVRC, the interagency agreement failed to pass after a motion by member Bill Phillips, who wanted assurances the lottery commission wouldn't be in charge of racing commission business. Phillips on June 21 said there were a number of drafts of the agreement, and changes were made to some of the language.

"As I said earlier, we always want to find ways to make our resources go further," said Phillips, who joined the three-member WVRC earlier this year. "My concern in the early stages (of the process) was that the agreement has to be designed in a way that assures we maintain our independence.

"Nothing can occur now unless the racing commission or its executive director request assistance from the lottery commission. I received enough assurance that we will control our own destiny."

Several industry representatives earlier said it is imperative the WVRC has independent counsel. The commission also draws from the state Attorney General's office.

In 2009 former Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, now a United States senator, attempted to win support for legislation that would have combined the racing and lottery agencies. It was soundly defeated in the House of Delegates in part because of opposition from the horse and dog racing industries.