Legislation introduced in the West Virginia Senate March 6 calls for several statutory changes regarding racing, including a substantial reduction in the minimum number of dates a track must schedule each year.
The bill, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, also would lessen the power of the West Virginia Racing Commission in setting races-per-day minimums and continue a shift of some purse revenue from video lottery terminals to other funds. The language in the measure appears to be pro-racetrack and anti-horsemen.
In regard to racing dates, the bill states that when a Thoroughbred or Greyhound racetrack applies for dates, they must total not less than 150. Current statute sets the minimum at 200. It also lowers the minimum from 200 to 150 for racetracks to have the right to export their signal.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Casino currently exceed the 200-days-per-year minimum at 235 and 210, respectively. The state's two Greyhound racetrack casinos race five to six days a week year-round.
The legislation also would change the racetrack VLT statute by lowering the required number of racing dates from 200 to 150. The VLT law ties operation of the machines to live racing.
As for number of races, the bill states that "within the parameters established, the licensee or permit-holder may set the actual number of races to be held on any respective racing day." Currently, the WVRC must approve the number.
Since July 2005, 7% of purse revenue from VLTs at horse and dog tracks in West Virginia has gone toward the Workers' Compensation Debt Reduction Fund. The new legislation states that as of July 1, 2013, "the first $6 million generated by this subdivision shall be deposited into the Community-Based Services Fund."
The shift of purse funds to pay for workers' compensation was supposed to expire at some point, and the full percentage of VLT revenue to purses and breed development restored.
In another casino-related provision in the bill, the yearly fee a racetrack must pay for a table games license would drop from $2.5 million to $1 million, and the state tax on adjusted gross revenue from table games would fall from 35% to 25%.
Finally, the measure restricts how horsemen's groups can use the up to 2% of purses paid they receive for various programs. The money can be used for medical trusts for backstretch personnel, but new language restricts its use for "legal actions, legal fees, lobbying expenses, reimbursement of board members of such associations, and other related expenses.