Facing declining revenues, racing industry looks to improve brand

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those with the racing industry in West Virginia are continuing to work on recommendations they hope to present to a legislative committee in September in the face of declining revenues.

A committee appointed by the West Virginia Racing Commission held a meeting Tuesday, most of the time was spent hearing from subcommittees that have been exploring ways to boost the thoroughbred and greyhound racing industry.

“We thought it was important to promote our people,” Marketing, Racing and Racetracks subcommittee chair Jana Tetrault said during her report. “Promote the people that actually work in our industry both in the racing and the casino sides. Promote our animals and our industries as an exciting entertainment option in West Virginia.”

The subcommittee is recommending the racing and casino industries be promoted together.

“Our numbers are huge numbers from the amount of people we employ to the contribution we make to the local economy and we need to position that together not separate entities,” Tetrault said.

The marketing subcommittee is also exploring ways to keep live audience entertained between races while increasing off-track betting which currently produces the most income.

Other subcommittees gave reports Tuesday on enhancing revenue, updating state racing laws and improving racing calendars.

As for the marketing subcommittee, Tetrault said a certain message must be communicated.

“Brand the racing and casino industry as an entertainment option highlighting the financial impact on the local and state economy,” she said.

The racing purses are subsidized by casino profits and there was some discussion during the last legislative session to eliminate the industry altogether.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance is charged with studying the racing and gaming issues before next year’s regular session.  It’s scheduled to meet in September.

Tetrault is the executive director of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.

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