Unless the Legislature appropriates new funding during either the 2020 or 2021 legislative sessions, the state Racing Commission will go broke during the 2021-22 budget year, executive director Joe Moore said Tuesday.
“We’re eating into our reserve fund and general administrative fund to the tune of $50,000 a month,” Moore told members of the Racing Commission. “At a clip of $600,000 a year, both funds will expire their reserves” during the 2021-22 fiscal year
The Racing Commission, which receives no general revenue funds, is funded through taxes on pari-mutuel wagering at the state’s two thoroughbred tracks and two greyhound racetracks.
Those taxes are on a sliding scale, increasing in percentage as wagering “handles” increase. However, as attendance and wagering at the four racetracks has decreased over time, the tax is not sufficient to cover costs of salaries, benefits, and operating expenses for the commission.
In October, the total in-state betting “handle” dropped 5.7 percent from October 2018, Moore said.
“You’re looking at a couple of years out to get changes into place before we start experiencing difficulties,” he said. “I would assume at some point, it would have to be addressed by the Legislature.”
Also Tuesday, the commission:
n Approved a hearing examiner’s recommendation to uphold the ejection of Scott Lane, a trainer at the Charles Town racetrack, for violating a track rule prohibiting the selling of horses for slaughter.
Commissioners also approved the examiner’s recommendation that Lane be allowed to reapply for a state permit and to request re-entry to the track after March 28, 2020.
Lane had testified that he had sold the horse to a reputable buyer, and was unaware the buyer’s intent was to resell it to a slaughterhouse. Ultimately, the horse was rescued by a humane association before being delivered to the slaughterhouse, commissioners were advised.
Commission chairman Joe Rossi stressed that in today’s anti-animal racing atmosphere, horsemen need to be especially diligent in such transactions.
“The horsemen need to do their due diligence in everything they do,” he said. “They really need to make certain they cross their T’s and dot their I’s.”
n Approved the 34th running of the West Virginia Breeders Classic at Charles Town, set for Oct. 10, 2020.
Commissioner Ken Lowe Jr., who owns the Shepherdstown hotel that will host a pre-race gala, asked if he needed to recuse himself from voting on the matter. However, Moore said the state Ethics Commission had previously ruled that the arrangement did not present a conflict of interest.
n Approved reducing live racing days at Charles Town in 2020 from the statutorily required 220 days to 173 days, two more than in 2019.