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Groups want study for racing industry in state

State dog and horse breeder groups want the West Virginia Racing Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of the state's racing industry to help politicians and policymakers understand how much the industry contributes to West Virginia's economy.

But commission members temporarily passed on the idea until breeders could provide more information about what the study would cover.

Members of the state Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Associations and the West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association submitted a letter to the commission requesting the study.

The estimated cost of the study is $60,000 to $70,000. The money would come from administrative accounts already pegged for promotion and education of state dog and horse racing.

Randy Funkhouser, president of the Charles Town horsemen's group, said there has never been a comprehensive statewide study of West Virginia's racing industry.

But Funkhouser said Charles Town has had three economic impact studies in the last two decades. The first study, conducted in 1990, showed the racetrack's economic impact on its surrounding communities was $83 million. The last study, conducted in 2010, puts that number at $211 million.

"It shows you the growth of the industry," he said. "The industry has grown, purses have gone up, people are coming in and spending lots of money."

Phil Reale, lobbyist and lawyer for the greyhound group, told commission members he supports the study.

"I do think it's an important study to have. I think people in government need to see objective information," he said.

Reale said the parameters of the study should be determined by Racing Commission, however.

John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association, which represents racetracks, suggested the commission's study look at both racing and casino operations at racetracks.

"I think you have to look at the whole picture, not just one aspect of what goes on," he said.

Sam Burdette, president of the greyhound group, spoke against that idea.

"I feel they want to eliminate racing," he said. "We feel racing is being somewhat attacked in West Virginia because it's not as profitable as gaming."

After discussion of the issue, racing commission members voted to delay action on the requested study. Chairman Jack Rossi said breeder groups did not provide the commission with enough information to make a decision.

"That's all they said, 'We want to do a study,' " Rossi said. "I want it to be an unbiased study, so it's fair to everybody. I want to know what we can do.

"I think properly handled, properly designed, it'd probably be good for West Virginia."

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at

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