An independent comprehensive study finds that West Virginia’s troubled greyhound racing industry may be on its last legs. The report by Spectrum Gaming Group says operating the state’s two greyhound tracks in Wheeling and Cross Lanes under the current structure “does not appear to be in the best interest of West Virginia taxpayers.”

The study by Spectrum shows just how far interest in dog racing has fallen, and how much the industry depends on subsides to survive. Consider these numbers from Spectrum:

—Wagering at the tracks dropped 55 percent from 2004 to 2013, from $35 million to just $16 million.

—Attendance is declining precipitously. In 1983, the greyhound racing at Wheeling Downs drew 929,000 people. Spectrum estimates that’s now down to 13,000 or about 50 people per race day.

—Purses are propped up by subsidies from other forms of gambling at the tracks, accounting for 95 percent of purse amounts.

—The state also subsidizes the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund. In 2013, the state pumped $5.5 million into the program that’s supposed to encourage dog breeding here. Ten breeders got half of the money.

—A WVU study found the greyhound industry had a $31 million economic impact on the state in 2012, but state subsidies that year totaled $29 million. That means, “The total direct and indirect impact barely exceeded the casino supplement.”

—Greyhound racing continues to fall out of favor. West Virginia is one of seven states that still has greyhound racing, down from 15 in 2001. Of the 21 remaining dog tracks in this country, 12 are in Florida.

West Virginia approved slot machines to keep the two dog and two horse tracks operating by offering more gambling alternatives and supplementing the purses. Over the years, casino gambling has become more popular and profitable.

Spectrum did not study horse racing, but this report shows unequivocally that greyhound racing is dying, propped up almost entirely by other forms of gambling. Even Sam Burdette, president of the West Virginia Owners and Breeders Association, sees the inevitable and is pushing for a $75 million buyout of the industry.

The West Virginia Kennel Owners’ Association is, according to Spectrum, “vehemently opposed to the buyout plan,” and that’s expected; they’re trying to hang on to their livelihood. But as the new Legislature looks for ways to save money, the state’s multi-million dollar annual subsidy of a moribund industry will be an attractive target.

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  • ViennaGuy

    Where did Hoppy say that the dog breeders should get a buyout? I don't see where he said that.

  • Got2bfree

    The state paid millions to people who were cruel to dogs.

  • Roscoe Swerpes

    Kabler reminds me of Howard Sprague taking up for ol Anje.

  • Picklebee

    When thousands of coal miners lost their jobs, did they get a buy-out?
    When the steel mill workers along the Ohio River lost their jobs, did they get a buy-out?
    When thousands of Ormet workers lost their jobs, did they get a buy-out?
    Now, please tell me why the dog racing workers are entitled to a buy-out?
    What makes them special?

  • Keith Cook

    Sounds about right.

  • Independent View

    "...The state also subsidizes the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund. In 2013, the state pumped $5.5 million into the program that’s supposed to encourage dog breeding here. Ten breeders got half of the money."
    Then, Sam Burdette, president of the West Virginia Owners and Breeders Association, sees the inevitable and is pushing for a $75 million buyout of the industry.
    $5.5 million subsidy in one year and this subsidy has been in place for decades and these people want a $75 million buyout????
    These people have no shame!!!!

  • susanf1218

    The next "subsidy" that the morons in the Legislature will enact will be to prop up the deer farming industry in WV, which they seem damned and determined to pass. Because we all know what an "economic boon" that will be to the state! Never mind that the potential for the transmission of chronic wasting disease from captive deer herds into the wild deer population could potentially decimate the whitetails and cause millions of dollars in lost revenue from hunting.

  • Bill

    And so we hear the death knell of an archaic industry.

  • The bookman

    Then the voters of Jefferson County have the option of recall. All it takes is a petition. If the support is there to close the Casino, then the citizens of Jefferson will have spoken. The facts speak for themselves, and the argument to continue to prop up horse racing will continue to be a more difficult sell as time continues.

  • WV Worker

    After Jefferson County rejected the racetrack vlt and table games referendum, the legislature changed the statute to garuntee more revenue for racing and breeding stayed in Jefferson County. This was the premise of the referendum.
    The legislature should not pull the rug out from the industry nor pull a bait and switch on voters.

  • The bookman

    From that same WVU report, $80 million dollars in tax transfer directly to racing, $47M in direct wages paid, and $146M in total direct economic impact. Total direct return to the state on that $80M transfer is $2.2M. In reading the WVU report, they clearly paint a picture of a dying industry that cannot exist on its own, that has turned to other forms of gaming to subsidize its existence while paying out enormous purse totals. Any business in the state would love to have such a sweetheart deal, and if racing is to survive, it is incumbent on racing to attract an audience that pays its way.

  • Bill

    So, we agree.

    Just pointing out that Hoppy failed to mention any of these topics in current story.

    Very odd.

  • Dr. Pill

    Bill, let's get real:

    1. (coal) is still a primary industry in WV
    2. (business climate) in WV STINKS!
    3. (lower taxes) is something everyone wants
    4. (evil unions) are one of the reasons the business climate in WV STINKS!
    5. (welfare state) encompasses WV with over 50% of the population receiving some form of Federal assistance
    6. (oppressive government regulation) as in the Obama-controlled EPA, nuf sed
    7. (threats to religious freedom) are everywhere, not just in WV
    8. (threats to second amendment), just ask Joe Manchin if it matters to the WV populous.
    9. (U.S. losing standing in the world) and it continues to do so. We can't get ISIS stopped, terrorists under control or Russia out of Ukraine/Crimea
    10. (Obama did it), he's been President for 6+ years, time to stop blaming Bush, it's all Obama's mess now

  • WV worker

    What about the 7,300 jobs and $321million economic impact in West Virginia? What about those who invested in WV to participate in breeding and racing? Farmers, veterinarians, feed and supply stores are impacted among others. Protecting and enhancing racing and breeding is the legislative intent of racetrack vlts and casinos.

  • Bill

    Keep re-reading Hoppy's commentary to find the obligatory references to:

    1. coal
    2. business climate
    3. lower taxes
    4. evil unions
    5. welfare state
    6. oppressive government regulation
    7. threats to religious freedom
    8. threats to second amendment
    9. U.S. losing standing in the world
    10. Obama did it

  • ViennaGuy

    It's not just West Virginia where dog and horse racing is on the decline ... the industry as a whole is on the decline.

  • Jonesy

    Sounds like the gambling industry is on welfare just like the other 50.2% of the state

  • Jefferson

    20 farms in Hancock County invested over $500k each to breed and race in WV. Much more in the Eastern Panhandle. 5,500 jobs associated with horse racing and breeding here.
    Jefferson County rejected vlts and table games before the legislature changed the formula to garuntee a percentage to racing and breeding. The legislative intent to racetrack table games and vlts is to protect and enhance racing and breeding. That was the deal for the referendum.
    Many horsemen and women moved to WV to invest in the industry. The legislature shouldn't pull the rug out nor bait and switch the referendum voters.

  • FungoJoe

    As my old buddy Jed Clampett used to say, "Well doggies."
    Momma ERT is not going to like this.

  • Charleston

    Cue the ASPCA commercial....

  • The bookman

    Completely an opinion, but I think the deal is that the Casinos were billed to the racing industry as their savior, and to garner their support, were cut in on the winnings. The Horse and Dog owners and breeders supported expanded gaming as long as they were directly benefitting from the additional revenue from the casinos. Last year, during this same discussion of subsidies, the threat was issued of a recall of the legislative authority governing the creation of casinos, specifically Hollywood in Jefferson County.

    So I think the "buyout" is laying the framework for the price of silence as it relates to recall of the casino legislation. Quite a bit of conjecture on my part, but from other conversations on this issue over the last 8 months, that is my take.

  • DWM

    As a WV taxpayer I'd be in favor of shutting down the greyhound racing industry. We accomplish two objectives: 1) we save the WV taxpayer money, and 2) we stop the abuse of these wonderful animals.

    Let's make it happen!

  • Matt Miller

    Is the deal that the casinos are using money that would otherwise go to the state to subsidize the dog racing, and so by ending the dog racing they would pay more money to the state? So they want paid the $75million to end dog racing and just make money on other gambling?

  • AJ

    as a Dem I'd say shut down Greyhound Racing. It's not as feasible as it use to be. Sorry ERT

  • Jack

    This characterization that this is taxpayer money is completely inaccurate. It is not taxpayer money. This is money that comes from slot machines and table games. It is set aside to support the live racing industry. One should read the video lottery legislation from the early 90's and the tables game legislation which passed sometime in the mid 2000's before referring to this as a taxpayer subsidy.

  • Matt Miller

    I share their curiosity in what they mean by a "buyout," and whether there is some reason which would require the state would have to do something like that rather than just walk away, free and clear.

    The Daily Mail article included a tiny bit more information:
    "Sam Burdette, president of the West Virginia Owners and Breeders Association, has advocated for a $75 million buyout in exchange for ending greyhound racing. "

    The "in exchange for ending greyhound racing" is all that is new... it sounds like he wants the state to pay them the money to go out of business.
    Would love some further information...

  • brent

    West Virginia should have learned by now that supply side economics don't work and aren't needed in the Mountain State. Incentives, land grabs, giveaways, incentives and subsidies have not, arguably, resulted in greater tax revenue (net of subsidies), and the jobs that result are short-lived....

  • hillbilly

    It's just time to get out...period. No more money to dog tracks.

  • The bookman

    And the subsidy to the Horse Racing Purse and Breeder's Fund? If we are prepared to have this fight, both dog and horse racing need to be in the discussion. At $80+ Million per year for industries that are suffering from declining participation, we should be assessing our future investment in either industry.


    am I mistaken?but is our gov tomlins family involved in grey hound racing

  • JTC

    Shut it down now! If they are bent on handing out money I am sure the county animal shelters would benefit from some kind of state subsidy. End race track welfare.

  • thornton

    Shut it down, cue the rescuers and the dogs will benefit longterm.

    Greed is a poor reason to breed dogs, especially for a comparably short life for a dog used as a hammer.....the practice leads down all manner of dead ends despite the attempt at times to make it appear all glossy and slick...and chock full of concern.

  • ViennaGuy

    Agreed - I would like to know more about this "buyout."

  • John of Wayne

    This industry's position is indicative of the product of welfare programs. They take state money which allows them to pursue their own leisure interests. No different from individuals who receive welfare support because they are "disabled and can't work" yet are capable of dragging a deer that they've shot hundreds of yards to their 4-wheeler to haul it back to their pickup.

    Typically, once one is on the public dole as this industry has been for years, they expect to be taken care of for life while not really producing anything that contributes to the greater good. Unfortunately, WV is replete with such examples.

  • Wowbagger


    Although this is a sacred cow that needs to be slaughtered, the retired greyhounds I have met are really nice, friendly dogs. Unfortunately a pet greyhound is both difficult and expensive to maintain, so I doubt there will be many in West Virginia in a few years.

  • Harvey

    Amen, Shinnston Guy. Let's see how new leadership handles this. I think it is a litmus test for their rhetoric. We shall see

  • C. F. T.

    $75,000,000 buyout of the industry?, by whom the State? (Our tax money). Please explain the buyout Hoppy.

  • Shinnston Guy

    Here's a chance for the new Republican majority to show they aren't "business as usual" and that they meant what they said during election season about streamlining government. This is an easy one: no more state support of something no one cares about and does not affect the public good. They can easily rewrite legislation allowing the four casinos to operate without racing or with horse racing events.

  • earltomblinslushfund

    Well duh, we've had to listen to kabler defend this nonsense for years while knowing it was a waste of money. It was great for the earl ray retirement fund. Its over let it die.

  • David

    Tomblin wouldn't be governor if not for those subsidies..

    And his wife wouldn't be a millionaire.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, the decline of the dog racing industry in WV is a doggone shame...

  • WVU1

    Looks like an easy decision.

  • Hop'sHip

    As usual those who will be hurt the worst are those who are the most vulnerable - the dogs.

  • Bones

    Dammit man, I'm a addict not an economist!! Where can I gamble my grocery and rent money away if the dog track isn't here?

    If we could just get the State to subsidize the Meth industry as well then WV would truly be "Almost Heaven"-- Then 2bitDannyJones
    could finally have the economic factor needed to import all of Detroit to Kanawha Valley...

  • Jefferson

    1. It is a voluntary tax on gamblers unlike personal income tax and it is stretch to call it taxpayer subsidies.

    2. What happens to the greyhound racetrack casinos if no more dog racing? Will anyone be allowed to have a casino in West Virginia?

  • zero tolerance

    Ruht Ro Raggy!