Deductions for a new breed development program and statewide workers' compensation have led Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort to cut purses 20% across the board beginning July 10. The West Virginia track has thousands of video lottery terminals that produce purse revenue and this fall will begin operating table games.
The move wasn't unexpected. A representative of the Mountaineer Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said June 30 the track was "scraping the bottom" to maintain purses, which have averaged about $140,000 a night this year. The underpayment in the account has dropped to about $2 million.
Purse accounts at the four tracks in the state contribute about $11 million a year to the state's troubled workers' comp program. Mountaineer horsemen will contribute about $3 million of the total this year. When VLTs were legalized at the track, purses received 15.5% of gross gaming revenue, but workers' comp and the breed development program have reduced that percentage.
For most of this year, regular purses have earned 8% of VLT revenue, and in August, the figure could drop to 7%, less than half the original percentage. It could return to about 14% this fall.
In a note to horsemen, Mountaineer director of racing Rose Mary Williams said the purse cut was made to avoid an overpayment in the purse account. She said she expects the reduction to be temporary, and purses would be bumped up 20% "when feasible."
The bottom purse will now be about $8,000 instead of $10,000. Maiden special weight events went from $24,200 to $19,400. The Aug. 4 all-stakes West Virginia Derby (gr. III) program isn't affected; about $1.5 million in purses will be offered that day.
Mountaineer on June 30 received local voter approval to install table games such as blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette. About 45 poker tables could be operating by early this fall.
Purses get 2.5% of revenue from table games, and breed development 2%. Officials said they were unsure how much revenue table games would produce for purses, but it could be in the millions of dollars each year.