WV Panel Rejects Interagency Agreement

Commission votes to only ask state Lottery Commission for assistance.

The West Virginia Racing Commission May 21 rejected a controversial interagency agreement that owners, trainers, and breeders claim would have put the state Lottery Commission in charge of Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing in the state.

The agreement hasn't been made public. News reports in West Virginia have suggested the agreement is designed to create efficiencies among several agencies, including the WVRC. The issue has been on the agenda for WVRC meetings for months, but no action had been taken until the May 21 meeting.

Representatives of owners, trainers, and breeders have publicly and privately commented on the potential impact of the agreement. Representatives of the state's four racetracks, which have video lottery terminals and table games that fall under the Lottery Commission, have been silent on the issue.

"We've been studying this issue for some time," WVRC chairman Jack Rossi said. "Each of us has had input. In light of (the accountant's report), I welcome any assistance the Lottery Commission can give us."

Joe Moore, accountant for the racing commission, said earlier in the meeting the WVRC would have a $1.1 million operating deficit for fiscal year 2013. It would be compensated for with a carryover balance, but that won't be the case in fiscal year 2014.

"At the current rate the racing commission will not be able to sustain its expenses through fiscal year 2014," Moore said.

The WVRC oversees numerous accounts funded by revenue from VLTs and pari-mutuel wagering, but most of the money goes to various racing and breeding programs.

WVRC member Bill Phillips said he's not opposed to state agencies working together to be more efficient financially. He made a motion to authorize the racing commission to ask the Lottery Commission for any assistance it needs, but he stopped short of suggesting the interagency agreement be signed.

"I think we can accomplish what we need without signing what is bureaucratic excess in my judgment," Phillips said. "I think the Lottery Commission needs to be mindful that when it provides services, it is working for the racing commission and not the lottery."

Phillips' motion was seconded by commissioner Greg McDermott, which effectively killed the interagency agreement. It wasn't immediately known whether the Lottery Commission would continue to push for its adoption.

David Hammer, an attorney for the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the organization "appreciates the vote" on the interagency agreement but urged the WVRC to utilize the legal counsel it now has rather than rely on the Lottery Commission.

Over the last few years the WVRC has become very proactive and has been recognized by officials in other states for its efforts in adopting uniform model rules. Owners, trainers, and breeders have said the horse and dog racing industries are large enough to warrant knowledgeable regulation by a specific agency.