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Will A New Legislative Makeup Affect W.Va.’s Greyhound Racing Industry?

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Randy Yohe
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Greyhounds head for the finish line at the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort track in Kanawha County.

In 2023, West Virginia will be the only state left with Greyhound racing. Industry opponents say a new legislative makeup could end the sport here. Proponents say it’s stronger than ever.

Grey2KUSA is a non-profit dedicated to ending Greyhound racing in the United States. Executive Director Carey Thiel said after Tuesday's vote, West Virginia anti-Greyhound racing legislators now make up a majority, and will likely reintroduce a bill to eliminate the sport.

“I would say to lawmakers who are looking at this, we believe the votes are likely there in both chambers at this point,” Theil said.

Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, is a long-standing Greyhound racing supporter. He calls Theil’s group a "propaganda machine" and has doubts about any proposed Greyhound elimination bill.

“Nobody has an idea of what the appetite would be for such legislation,” Fluharty said. “People have seen beyond his lies and misinformation and realize that this industry is thriving. It produces thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.”

Theil said the facts are not on Fluharty’s side. He said dog racing profits are down and most realized revenues go to out-of-state internet gambling outfits.

“I think the legislature should ask itself, 'do we really want to be the last state to allow an industry that is resulting in a large number of dogs being hurt?'” Theil said.

Fluharty argued that greyhound racing profits are better than ever for a sport that he said is both humane and beneficial.

“You’ve got to look at this industry and see how many dogs who retire from racing become adopted,” Fluharty said. “It's better than your local shelters.”

West Virginia is bound by law to support the Greyhound racing operations at two casinos, Wheeling Island in Ohio County and Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Kanawha County. Theil hopes to end an annual state subsidy of about $17 million that the Greyhound racing industry has received each year for many years.

Fluharty said the industry payments are not a subsidy. He explained that the funds come from other casino profits and are filtered by the state back to Greyhound breeders and racing operatives — with no taxpayer money involved.

The Delaware North corporation owns both West Virginia’s Greyhound tracks. Back in May, a spokesperson said patrons and profits continued on a five-year decline and the company would support legislation to run its casinos without greyhound racing.

For extensive background and insight on the Greyhound racing industry in West Virginia, check out WVPB’s special series, Greyhound Racing In W.Va. - Last Of A Dying Breed.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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