CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leader of an anti-greyhound racing group says West Virginia is the group’s next main target.
GREY2K Executive Director Carey Theil said Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” a coalition will be formed to urge the legislature to support the elimination of greyhound racing currently at Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes and Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling.
“This is our top focus. It’s going to be a lot fo groups on the ground, local groups, on the left and on the right who are going to fight for this and support it,” Theil said.
Southland Gaming, which operates the only track in Arkansas to offer dog racing, has announced it’s phasing it out. The move, which was approved by the Arkansas Racing Commission, leaves only five tracks nationwide, two in West Virginia, that currently operate with no mandate to scale back operations.
Theil said greyhound racing is not economically viable. He said at its peak it was generating $3.5 billion in revenue at more than 70 tracks in 19 states. He said competition from other forms of gambling and an increased awareness of the injuries and deaths suffered by greyhounds have caused many states to take a second look.
The greyhound racing industry in West Virginia is aided by $15 million it receives annually from other forms of gambling, a promise breeders have said made to them years ago. Theil said the money could be better used elsewhere.
“Dou want $15 million a year to go to subsidize an industry that is not economically viable, that’s causing a greyhound to die every 10 days on a West Virginia racetrack? Or do want $15 million to repair roads?” Thiel asked.
Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, bristles at the contention that greyhound racing is not economically viable. Fluharty referred to a WVU study in a Friday morning’s Facebook post in response to a column by MetroNews “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval.
“There’s literally a study from WVU which provides an analysis on the economic impact of both greyhound and thoroughbred racing. You basically accuse me of making up numbers so maybe grab a coffee, sit down, and actually read the report which states the greyhound industry is responsible for 1,700 jobs statewide, 1,100 of which are in Ohio County,” Fluharty wrote.
Fluharty added the state relies on both greyhound and thoroughbred racing.
“This includes city and county budgets as well as pensions for police officers and firemen in counties where the tracks aren’t even located. If you’re going to “report” on these industries at least get beyond the talking points of lobbyists and use actual facts so we all don’t have to scream “fake news” at you,” Fluharty said.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, made it clear in recent weeks where he stands on the issue.
“This is an industry that has come and gone,” Carmichael said on MetroNews Talkline. “It makes no sense for the taxpayers of this state to subsidize what amounts to, in my view, an inhumane activity.”
Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a bill in April 2017 that would have removed the state’s role in greyhound racing. Theil said Friday his group is confident it can now convince Justice to support the elimination.
“I think we’re going to have the votes in the Senate. I think we’re going to have the votes in the House. I think we can get the governor,” he said.
There have been several states that are eliminating greyhound racing by phasing it out. Theil said he would be open to such a move in West Virginia.
“In dog racing in Massachusetts, we included a 14-month phase out. The Florida constitutional amendment included a 26-month phase out. The Arkansas deal includes a 36-month phase out. I definitely think there’s a way you can get there,” Theil said.