West Virginia’s state backing of the dog racing industry could get a second look during this year’s legislative session.
It’s high time.
Dogs and horses used to be the only action at West Virginia’s racetracks. In the 1990s, the state agreed to let the state’s four tracks add casinos to rev up revenue.
Since then, the casinos have outpaced the dogs.
That’s the trend across the nation, where betting on greyhound racing — both trackside and at remote simulcast parlors — has plummeted from a peak of $3.5 billion in 1991 to $665 million in 2012, according to The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, West Virginia was set to subsidize thoroughbred and greyhound racing purse funds by about $80 million this budget year.
It’s a questionable allocation of resources, especially when the racing industry has been criticized for its treatment of the dogs.
This could be the year the state cuts bait on dog racing.
By Dec. 31, the state Lottery Commission is expected to receive a study of the fiscal impact of state subsidies for greyhound racing, according to a Sunday Gazette-Mail story by Phil Kabler.
It will delve into issues like how subsidies of greyhound racing affect the state budget, how casinos would be affected if subsidies are withdrawn and, if the subsidies are eliminated, whether to compensate the greyhound owners.
The study was requested by the state Legislature’s current Finance Committee chairman — Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, on the Senate side and Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, on the House side.
There’s been talk of a decoupling bill — one that would allow the still-prosperous casinos to separate from their dog track obligations.
By the next legislative session, of course, Republicans will be running the Senate and the House.
If greyhound racing can survive on its own at the state’s race tracks, so be it. But here’s hoping legislators cast a critical eye on greyhound racing subsidies as wasteful spending.