CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Charleston attorney representing the greyhound industry is hoping that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will reconsider cutting the industry’s funding in half.
Alan Pritt says the proposed cut in funding from $8 million to $4 million is a double edged sword for casinos.
“It’s our opinion that the kennel owners could not afford to live race under these numbers,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline” Wednesday. “That’s a good question I guess. There’s still a requirement to have live racing, but there’s no way to operate under these conditions. Under these numbers it’s impossible for dog owners to survive.”
Pritt argued that it’s not fair to require the state’s two casinos in Nitro and in Wheeling to have dog racing, but cut half their funding.
“There’s no way they can make a profit; there’s no way they can even break even. You can’t feed a dog half of the food that it needs; you can’t get half of the health certificate; you can’t rent half a kennel so to speak.”
So what would would happen to dog racing if Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs the proposed budget? Pritt said it’s unclear.
“Quite frankly, no one knows. Are the casinos going to have to subsidize? If this becomes law, the requirement is still live racing,” Pritt explained. “But there’s no way to fund racing, there’s no way to get a greyhound on the track with those numbers.”
Pritt said he has an idea for a compromise.
“We want is to have the purse funds stay where they’re at, and next year we have some potential legislation that if the state says they need some money, we can find other ways to generate revenue in this industry,” he said. “The greyhound industry is not dying; it’s just being used in a different format.”
Pritt explained that while casino attendance for betting at the track in person is down, the unregulated online betting on phones, tablets and computers at home is quite popular.
“That has the potential has to collect more revenue for purses, the state and for the people of West Virginia. We haven’t really dug into that opportunity yet.”
Finally, Pritt argued that the proposed budget is technically breaking the law by defunding dog racing and putting the money toward thoroughbred racing.
“I would argue that this budget bill is technically flawed because it basically creates a fund that doesn’t exist,” Pritt said. “This money normally went to what is called the racetrack regular purse fund, and that money was placed into that account. What the legislature has done is zeroed that account, and created a new account called the thoroughbred regular purse fund.”
The new budget on its way to Tomblin’s desk still has an $11 million allocation for greyhound racing with $7 million going to the breeders fund and $4 million to the purse fund.