Greyhound racing to stay (for now) in West Virginia


greyhound-racing-to-stay-for-now-in-west-virginiaThe greyhound racing industry in West Virginia was on pins and needles, waiting to find out whether or not a bill to cut off its funding would find enough support with legislators. Industry players can now breathe a sigh of relief, at least for the time-being, as the West Virginia Senate has decided that it wasn’t willing to aid in the demise of a practice that is putting money in state coffers, as well as jobs. However, at least one proponent of the bill isn’t ready to give up the fight just yet.

The West Virginia Senate voted on a bill on February 19 that, if approved, would have stopped state money from being channeled into the West Virginia Breeding Development Fund. That fund receives around $17 million each year, but the money comes directly from gambling activity, not from other sources. When the Senate legislators were done weighing in, 21 had voted against approving the bill, and 11 had voted in its favor.

The decision was a blow to Senator Mitch Carmichael. He is not only the sponsor of the bill, but the president of the Senate, and the defeat probably hit his ego like a gut shot. Just before the lawmakers voiced their decisions, he gave the bill a last-minute push, telling his fellow politicians, Whether we do it this year or next year or the year after, it’s going to happen. Greyhound racing is ending across all of America.”

There are two dog tracks in the state – Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort. However, there’s the potential to have more, given that Florida just shut down greyhound racing and the practice has been stripped out of 41 states. As a result, supporters of the activity in West Virginia believe that now is the time to embrace the activity, not push it away, if the state feels that it needs to find ways to distribute budget money better. They also believe that it could be a great way to promote tourism.

Attempts to kill of greyhound racing in West Virginia are now 0-2. A similar attempt was made in 2017, going all the way to the governor’s desk before it was vetoed.

The tracks are ready to keep pushing forward as a result of the bill’s defeat. They realize that they may have to seek a new industry at some point for themselves, and the 1,700 employees working in the field, but are happy to see the debate once again come to a close. As the GM of Wheeling Island, Kim Florence, puts it, “We’re going to continue to run live racing with the highest standards of performance and safety for our greyhounds. We’ve been doing that for 40-plus years now, and we’re going to continue to do so.”