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Sam Burdette: W.Va. should keep the racing in racinos

Recent articles suggest the Legislature change our racing law to curtail racing. West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders comment as follows:

Changing the law is not necessary.

Racing existed first. Casinos were built on sites developed and paid for by racing.

West Virginia Code authorizes distributions from the net terminal income of the racetrack video lottery (not the main lottery) as follows:

* State lottery fund, 30 percent.

* Track purses, 7 percent to 14 percent.

* Counties and/or municipalities of the racinos, 2 percent.  

* Racino licensees (businesses), 46.5 percent.  

* Racing development funds, 1.5 percent.

* W.Va. Racing Commission, 1 percent,  

* Tourism Promotion Fund, 3 percent.

* Worker's Comp Debt Reduction Fund, 7 percent to 10 percent, and

* Other state building projects, 2 percent.

These are "income" to the  above entities for the goods and services they provide. Casinos and racing, or racinos, are treated as one integrated entity at each location. The distributions are NOT "subsidies."

The four racinos also receive relatively small income from pari-mutual wagering.

The four racino locations in West Virginia made a total profit of $118 million in 2011. Since all are owned by out-of-state corporations, we surmise these profits went out of state.

Two of the racino corporations are building competing casinos in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Profits from West Virginia are helping to build competing casinos.

The racino licensees are distributed 46.5 percent of the net terminal income whether they have racing or not.

With racing, the money paid for racing expenses stays in West Virginia.

Without racing, the money leaves West Virginia.

Keep the racing money here. Racing benefits West Virginia.

From the distribution for track purses listed above, horse and dog owners are mandated to pay $11 million each year to help reduce the state's worker's compensation debt.

The track purses and breeder development funds mandated by the code make it financially feasible for the horse and dog racing to exist in rural West Virginia.

Racing is estimated at a more than $100 million industry here. Racing-related employees number an estimated 600 to 700 people.

Other West Virginia goods and services providers, ranging from farm goods to white-collar services, benefit from racing in West Virginia.

Changing racing law is not wise.

Gaming and racing should be integrated into promotional activities with other tourist attractions. Arkansas markets its tourism with everything from country dinner theaters to sporting and wildlife activities to gaming and racing.

Think of fishing lakes in Arkansas. Think of the Southland Greyhound Racetrack racino at West Memphis. Think of thoroughbred horse racing at Hot Springs, Ark. We might benefit from similar promotional marketing.

Curtailing racing to the point of killing it in this state is not wise.

Other points to consider:

State code distributes up to $10 million per year to the racinos to upgrade their slot machines. This comes off the top of excess racetrack video lottery income before others receive their share of distributions from net terminal income - not quite fair to the others.

What will happen to racetrack video lottery distributions for track purses and development funds if racing is killed?

Think carefully. Racing income goes straight into the West Virginia economy without passing through others - much more beneficial.

Do we really want just casino gambling houses like Las Vegas or Atlantic City in rural West Virginia? Is that wise?

The racinos are receiving an extremely gracious package from the state of West Virginia.

To change racing law and curtail horse and dog racing to the point of possible extinction is not necessary, beneficial, wise or prudent.

Sam Burdette has been president of the West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders for six years. He is a civil engineering graduate of WVU with a master's from Oklahoma State. He retired in 1997 to help care for aging parents and raise West Virginia-whelped greyhounds.



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