The West Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation Wednesday that will have a negative impact on racing (here).
The legislation, which passed the House by a 72-25 margin, now heads to the state Senate, where it has been assigned to the Finance Committee. In order to close a budget deficit, the legislation slices the amount of slots revenue going to purses and to breeding by 10 percent each — not the 15 percent in the bill’s original language but still substantial.
The legislation also has the backing of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. In its original format, with a 15 percent reduction, the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), which represents Charles Town’s horsemen, estimated that it could cost horsemen “approximately $6 million.”
“Reductions like those proposed in H.B. 4333 would be devastating to the horse racing industry in West Virginia,” the organization said in a statement to its members.
The West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association had a similar response. The proposed cuts, WVTBA vice-president Martin Blaylock wrote, “will hurt each and every one of us involved in the Thoroughbred industry in West Virginia.”
Dan Greathouse, a Hancock County commissioner, told the The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register that he has both immediate and long-term concerns with the cuts. In the long run, he said, “I’m concerned we’re going to lose some of our horse breeders here.”
On top of that, there’s the matter of purses. These cuts, he suggested, might take a whack out of the state’s top racing events, like Mountaineer Park’s West Virginia Derby. With lower purses, he said, “It will be difficult to attract good horses.”