The West Virginia legislature recently passed a bill restoring $11 million annually to the horse and greyhound racing industry from the excess lottery fund.
Senate Bill 13 passed in the WV Senate unanimously two weeks ago, and now only awaits Gov. Jim Justice’s signature after passing in the House last Friday.
The bill is set to give the money back to the Mountain State’s racetracks that initially generated the revenue for their own purse funds.
In 2006, WV used money from the excess lottery fund to pay off the debt created when the state privatized its workers’ compensation program.
If passed, the money would be used for the tracks’ normal purse distribution starting July 1 for this season’s racing schedule.
Live thoroughbred horse racing is available at:
Additionally, live racing enthusiasts can find live greyhound racing at:
Giving back to WV horse racing
The bill passed with ease, but not before several lawmakers tried voicing their stance for an amendment that would have moved the funds to education resources instead.
Del. Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, presented the amendment with hopes he could rally support around public schooling. Martin voiced his opposition to funding the horse racing industry.
“This is $11 million that’s going toward a gambling subsidy. I feel like this money would be better going to the county boards of education…right now is a chance for you all to make (teachers) a priority.”
Other committee members gave their cases to justify the new bill.
House Finance Committee Chairman, Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said:
“These monies were originally taken away from the breeders to help with the workers’ comp fund trying to make sure that we take care of the past sins of the state-run workers’ comp. Now we have that fund in a pretty good shape. Once this fund was taken care of, we would put this money back and give it back to the breeders of both horses and dogs.”
Delegates from districts with racing also strongly opposed the amendment.
Del. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, said:
“We gave it back to everyone else, but we’re not going to give it back to them because they don’t deserve it? Because they’re way down there on somebody’s list? You want to know something? They’re way up here on my list.”
The amendment attempt failed by a wide margin, 19-to-78.
WV sports betting boosts horse racing
It is no secret the horse racing industry has been suffering lately. It didn’t help that the Purse Fund dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last five years.
This latest bill will help restore some of the funds. So, it seems has the WV sports betting industry.
Specifically, WV Lottery officials credit the excitement around sports betting and an improving economy behind a renewed interest in horse racing.
Now seems like a perfect time to give back to the industry that has been giving to WV for many years.
The WV horse racing industry contributed $154 million over 14 years to help pay the Workers’ Compensation Old Fund debt of $3 billion. With a flick of the pen, the governor can now help begin to give some of that back to the WV casinos and racetracks.