West Virginia Senate Rejects Bill To Eliminate Greyhound Racing Fund

Feb 19, 2020

The West Virginia Senate has rejected a measure that would have eliminated a fund that helps prop up the state’s greyhound racing industry.

The state directs roughly $17 million in excess lottery funds to the greyhound industry each year. Those funds are funneled to breeders and handlers at the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro and Wheeling Island Hotel and Casino.

The money is drawn from other sources of lottery revenue and not from the state’s general budget.

Senate Bill 285 would’ve eliminated the greyhound breeding development fund and  allowed that money to go to other lottery-funded programs such as education.

The bill would have also put $3 million toward retraining workers who would be laid off within the industry and $1 million to promote adoptions for dogs who would be retired from racing. Residents who adopt the retired greyhounds would have gotten a $500 tax credit.

Members of the upper chamber voted 11-23 Wednesday to reject the measure.

Supporters of the bill, like Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the state continues to prop up a dying industry.

"Whether we do it this year, or next year, or the year after it's going to happen. Greyhound racing is ending all across America," Carmichael said. "There's only a few handful of states that even allow it legally to occur. And we're the only state in America that subsidizes the activity."

While the bill would not have outlawed greyhound racing, opponents said the bill would’ve doomed the industry.

Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, also pointed out that other states like Flordia have recently voted to phase out greyhound racing. He argued that gives West Virginia an opportunity to capitalize.

“There aren't many industries in our state that we control that is ours alone -- and we're getting close to being the only game in town when it comes to this industry. The handle is up. There's $400 million in dog betting money available to capture from the state of Florida,” Ihlenfeld said. “Instead of kicking this to the curb, we ought to embrace it, we ought to modernize it, we ought to make it even better and allow even more people to send money to West Virginia.”

Aside from West Virginia, Alabama, Iowa and Texas are the only other states that have greyhound racing tracks.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Mardi Gras Casino was located in Cross Lanes. This story has been updated to correct its location.