The Beginning of the End ?

Who would have ever thought it would be a pen stroke of legislation that would end racing ? – I guess it eventually does, but now it is taking center stage. If you’ve been on vacation, under a rock, or just didn’t have time to read the racing rags. You may want to see a growing swirl in the middle of the waters. It has the look of “not much will happen,” but the devil may be in in the details. – I think as fans we need to have our voice heard, put lobbyists on def-con alert, and someone may want to follow the popular billboards and “Better Call Saul.”

According to the Bloodhorse.com article, West Virginia is seeking to decouple racing from the gaming works.

Legislation that would remove the requirement that racetracks with gaming also offer live racing has been introduced in the West Virginia Senate. The bill’s primary intent is to transfer, as of July 1, any money deposited in the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund to the Excess Lottery Revenue Fund for appropriation by the state legislature. But the measure also eliminates requirements that video lottery terminal licensees hold racing licenses and have contracts with horsemen’s group on a share of VLT and table games revenue that must go to purses.

For years, the Horsemen’s groups have expected this to happen down the road, and that destination has now arrived. They thought it would be Dog Racing on the chopping block, but look a little deeper. There is no wording that excludes Thoroughbred racing. –  Horsemen’s groups in West Virginia for a few years have expected legislative action to decouple gaming from dog racing, and have been concerned it wouldn’t end there. The Senate bill language doesn’t exempt horse racing from the proposed changes according to the Bloodhorse.com article. – “This bill would no longer require live racing at Charles Town and Mountaineer if those racing associations chose not to retain their racing licenses, but they could continue to retain their video lottery and table games licenses,” a horsemen’s memo states. “Moreover, the only requirement for a contract with horsemen would be under the Interstate Horseracing Act, but that would only apply if management chose to retain their racing license and conduct racing.”

The horse racing and breeding industry in Florida is up in arms over similar legislation that would decouple horse and dog racing from gaming. Bills have passed a House of Representatives committee, but thus far there isn’t much of an appetite in the Senate. It remains to be seen how far the decoupling effort goes in West Virginia, where the two Thoroughbred tracks combined will have about 340 racing programs this year. Also at stake is a breeding program concentrated around Charles Town in the state’s Eastern Panhandle region.

The legislature on multiple occasions since the mid-2000s has taken VLT revenue from purse accounts to support other state programs. The bill as written would remove the following from state statute: “A racetrack applying for a video lottery license or a license renewal must present to the commission evidence of the existence of an agreement regarding the proceeds from video lottery terminals between the application and the representative of a majority of the horse owners and trainers, the representative of a majority of the pari-mutuel clerks, and the representative of a majority of the breeders or representative of a majority of the kennel owners for the applicable racetrack that holds (required) permits,” according to the Bloodhorse.com.

I’ve been following on social media the words of wisdom from track simulcast directors, and general managers. Who better to have a handle of this, huh ? – How about a simple paragraph inserted into any casino / gaming company proposal buying up existing properties that hold a gaming license for racing. – Live racing will be conducted the same amount of days it has for the last ten years. ( We’ll use a nice average to arrive at the number of dates). – Thoroughbred racing will be actively supported, funded, and advertised if said company wants to have gaming operations in the state. – This is non-transferable to another jurisdiction, and a 20-year contract will be signed protecting the sport and allowing it to re-establish itself as a viable product. – If there is any hesitation, I ask only one question. – Was it a coincidence that you ( the gaming company) wanted to set up operations where there was horse racing ? – Nope. They saw a way in, and now are trying to do away with who brought them to the dance.  -The wolf in sheep’s clothes is here and actively working with state legislation. This is happening now, and before you know it you’ll be hearing that Texas will be first to drop back and do away with racing. – They have been pursuing historical racing, and now have been crushed voting 5-4 to repeal this effort. What happens next in this twisting tale is a ways from resolution. The Texas Legislature meets in every odd-numbered year, so any relief to racing that may come from lawmakers won’t be seen until 2017.

Leave a Comment