WV Bill Spares Racing, Breeding From Cuts

West Virginia racing dodged a bullet when legislation was altered.

Legislation that would have diverted gaming funds from several recipients including horse and dog racing in West Virginia has been altered to instead use money from the excess video lottery terminal revenue fund to pay for casino upgrades.

An earlier version of the bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 23 and was sent to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration would have taken 2.5% of gross terminal revenue from VLTs to create a “Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund” that could be spent on facilities and equipment related to VLTs and table games.

The version that passed the finance committee March 2, however, allows four racetrack casinos and a hotel casino to keep up to $10 million a year for the improvements. The funds will come from the West Virginia Lottery Commission, not racing and other programs.

Racing and breeding interests voiced opposition to the earlier funding mechanism. Purses took a serious hit in the mid-2000s when the state shifted funds for prize money to its troubled workers’ compensation program. The amount to purses dropped from 14% of gross VLT revenue to 7%.

The legislation that cleared the finance committee also authorizes full-card simulcasts at the Greenbrier Hotel and Casino in southern West Virginia. Currently, only the state’s four tracks can offer simulcasts.