In 1994, commercial gambling was legalized in West Virginia under the Racetrack Video Lottery Act. The same bill then licensed table games and slot machines for the four state racetracks.
Under this bill, greyhound facilities are required to contribute 1.5% of their gross gaming revenue (GGR) to the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund.
This requirement is followed through by both Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack and Mardi Gras Casino which are West Virginia’s greyhound facilities.
These two facilities have contributed about $13 million to $15 million dollars in revenue to the fund.
Grey2K USA Worldwide has recently conducted a study in which it wanted to find out the opinion of the citizens on the subsidy directed to greyhound facilities. It is not surprising that the group conducted the study because Grey2K is popularly known for opposing dog racing.
The study revealed that majority of citizens wanted the subsidy to end. According to the poll, 57% of West Virginia citizens strongly opposed the subsidy, 22% of them “somewhat opposed”, 10% “somewhat support and lastly, 6% of the citizens strongly supported this distribution of the casinos’ GGR.
The poll has faced criticism from government officials. Ryan Weld, West Virginia’s Majority Whip, claimed that the study was misleading since it used the term “subsidy”. This he supported by confirming that the subsidy was not from the government’s money.
He further explained that the subsidy was the 1.5% casino GGR that was first collected by the state and rechanneled to the racetrack. From this information, it is clear that the state just plays as an intermediary between the casino and the greyhound breeding development fund.
Carey Theil, Grey2K’s Executive Director, countered that the subsidy was an amount of money the government grants to be directed in the support of another industry. Viewing it in this perspective, it is clear that the casinos’ contribution is a subsidy.
This is because one, it was granted by the government under the Racetrack Video Lottery Act and two, it is channeled to the support of the greyhound facilities.
The poll is not farfetched since in 2017 West Virginia Legislature was keen to remove the subsidy but the bill had been vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice.
Apart from West Virginia, Florida also shares the same sentiments on greyhound racing. In fact, last year Florida taxpayers voted for the phasing out of dog racing. The amendment aimed to have the dog racing phased out by January 2021. However, the vote is still subject to a federal lawsuit.
Elsewhere, Arkansas which had legalized commercial gambling last year was also set to stop dog racing and has already achieved approval from the state.
The legalization of gambling in Arkansas gave rise to Thoroughbred Racino Oaklawn and Southland transforming them into established casinos with table games and casinos. Southland was responsible for the petition of ending greyhound races.
Arkansas’ state agency gave its approval on condition that the hounds would be adopted which is a humane ruling. Going by the voters’ disapproval of dog racing, the hounds are sure to get homes where they will be cared for.