West Virginia Governor Vetoes Greyhound Subsidy Cut

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin removed the word "Thoroughbred" from the state's budget legislation, thereby maintaining the $4.1 million subsidy for greyhound racing purses that legislators attempted to direct only to Thoroughbred racetracks. Dog and horse tracks will share the subsidy with a 25/75 percent division.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently signed the state’s 2016-17 budget bill with general-revenue spending of .187 billion, but he included seven line-item vetoes. One of them removed language that would have designated .11 million from state Lottery profits to go strictly for thoroughbred horse racing purses—the legislature’s attempt to cut the subsidy for greyhound racing purses by nearly .1 million.

Tomblin stated the thoroughbred-only provision was unconstitutional. “The legislature may not use an unauthorized insertion in the Budget Bill to undermine general law,” he said. As a result, thoroughbred and greyhound racing purses will share the $4 million cut with a 75/25 percent division, respectively.

Attorney and greyhound industry lobbyist Alan Pritt said, “With this money restored it doesn’t appear at least that we will be out of business on July 1. The greyhounds will be able to run.” He said lawmakers created an illegal account. “What they can’t do is try to name a fund that doesn’t exist and place money into that fund that doesn’t exist. The Thoroughbred Regular Purse Fund does not exist.”

Danny Adkins, vice president of Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Nitro, said even if the $4 million cut in purse funds was permitted, greyhound racing would survive. “It’s unfortunate the way the money was taken in the last minutes, but, no, it won’t put them out of business,” Adkins said.

Regarding decoupling legislation, which would mean casino license holders would not have to offer live racing, Adkins said, “It’s something that has to be looked at. But to just cut them off I don’t think is the right thing. There might be a way to do it over time, to ease it out. There’s no question there’s declining interest in greyhound racing. There is no interest.”

Adkins stated without greyhound racing the facility could “put in an outlet mall or a retail component–something that is a nice marriage with the casino.”

Meanwhile, he said, “What we will do is sit down with our kennel operators, our dog men, and if we can work together and come up with a methodology to keep the activity going for a while or at least a while to allow them to wind down their business operations, that’s what we would look at. I just wouldn’t want to pull the plug on them.”