Bill Would Reorganize West Virginia Racing Commission

Legislation that would expand the West Virginia Racing Commission from three to five members and create the oversight position of a director of racing appointed by the governor has been introduced in the House of Delegates and sent to the House Committee on Government Organization.

The bill, sponsored by Delegates John Doyle and Joe DeLong, requires one commission member to have at least five years of law enforcement experience and one to have at least five years experience as an accountant. In addition, the measure says no less than one member shall reside in each county in which a pari-mutuel facility is located, or in an adjacent county.

The bill would abolish the statutory state offices of racing secretary, assistant racing secretary, chief clerk, director of security, director of audits, and chief chemist. A new director of racing would oversee a state racing office that would be located in the state capital of Charleston.

Doyle and DeLong have been advocates for the horse racing industry in West Virginia. Doyle's district includes Charles Town Races & Slots, while DeLong's district includes Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort. The racing commission also oversees Greyhound racing at two racinos in the state.

During a previous legislative session, there was an attempt to eliminate the racing commission and create a gaming commission to oversee racing and video lottery terminal operations at the four tracks. Horsemen's groups were among those that fought the proposal.

The proposed reorganization of the racing commission is attached to state code that governs the West Virginia Thoroughbred Development Fund. Charles Town has long offered West Virginia-bred races, but beginning this year, Mountaineer will offer races for state-breds. To help kick-start the program, there are award provisions for "raisers" -- owners of yearlings (regardless of where they were foaled) at the time they finish 12 consecutive months of verifiable residence in the state.

The bill sponsored by Doyle and DeLong specifies that the new director of racing would sit on a breed development committee along with one member who represents a majority of owners and trainers at a racetrack, and one member appointed by the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders' Association.