CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has come to the rescue of the state’s dog racing industry by restoring a cut of approximately $2.5 million to the purse fund. Greyhound operators claimed the cut in prize money would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue to race at the state’s dog tracks at Cross Lanes and Wheeling and remain profitable.
The budget submitted to Tomblin by the Legislature eliminated about $2.5 million for dog racing purses, and appropriated $10 million to the newly created “Licensed Racetrack Thoroughbred Regular Purse Fund.” Tomblin simply struck the word “Thoroughbred,” saying it “contravenes the requirements of general law.”
As a result, the $10 million will be divided between thoroughbred and greyhound purses. That money comes from video lottery proceeds at the state’s four race tracks. State Racing Commission interim executive director Joe Moore estimates that based on past performance the thoroughbred purses will get about 75 percent of the money, while the greyhound purses will get 25 percent.
Moore says the total amount of the greyhound purse fund is about $10 million, including the restored $2.5 million.
The dog racing money has become a controversial issue in recent years. The sport has declined in popularity and cannot operate profitably without a heavy infusion of cash from other forms of gambling.
Some lawmakers want to phase out dog racing, but others, including Governor Tomblin, cite the original intent of the legislation allowing expanded gambling at the tracks as a means to support dog and horse racing. The state also operates a fund that allocates about $4 million annually to dog breeders.
Tomblin is connected to the greyhound industry. His late mother, Freda, operated a kennel in Logan County for years. After her death, Tomblin’s nephew, Carl Tomblin II, assumed operation of the kennel.