Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

RACING SUBSIDIES ; Horse Tracks Saddled with Bigger Cuts

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

RACING SUBSIDIES ; Horse Tracks Saddled with Bigger Cuts

Article excerpt

What legislators envisioned as a major cut in greyhound racing subsidies will actually have a bigger impact on West Virginia's two thoroughbred racetracks, members of the state Racing Commission learned Tuesday. However, what looks like a $4.1 million funding cut on paper will only be about half that amount, because of ongoing declines in the racetrack video lottery revenue that funds the racing subsidies, acting executive director Joe Moore told the commission.

In the budget bill passed June 14, the Legislature cut the portion of racetrack purse fund subsidies that it has authority to appropriate from $14.1 million to $10 million and renamed the line item from the "Licensed Racetrack Regular Purse Fund, to the "Licensed Racetrack Thoroughbred Regular Purse Fund.

As Moore explained Tuesday, "They said, We're going to appropriate $10 million, but we're only going to appropriate it to the thoroughbred purse fund.'

In signing the budget bill on June 17, though, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin line-item vetoed the designation for thoroughbred racing only, stating that it is unconstitutional for the Legislature to "use an unauthorized insertion in the budget bill to undermine general law.

That action restores the share of funding that goes for greyhound purses but does not restore the $4.1 million cut in the appropriation. However, Moore said Tuesday that the $4.1 million funding cut in the budget isn't really $4.1 million, since the racetrack video lottery profits used to provide the appropriation have been declining.

For the current budget year, what appears in the budget as a $14.1 million appropriation will actually come in at about $12 million, Moore said.

Because the purse fund subsidies are allocated on a pro-rated basis, based on each racetrack casino's share of video lottery profits, based on current revenue, Moore said reducing the appropriation from about $12 million to $10 million would mean the purse fund cuts would be:

* Charles Town Races, about $1 million

* Mountaineer Race Track, about $500,000

* Wheeling Island greyhound racetrack, about $400,000

* Mardi Gras greyhound racetrack, about $200,000

However, Moore noted that the Lottery Commission is projecting a downturn in video lottery revenue for the Charles Town casino once the $1. …

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