West Virginia’s greyhound racing industry has been waiting to find out whether or not a bill to slash its funding would gain enough support from lawmakers. They can now sigh with relief, as the West Virginia Senate has agreed that it is not willing to help with the downfall of a practise that puts money into state coffers, for now.
On February 19, the West Virginia Senate voted on a bill that, if approved, would have blocked the channelling of state money into the West Virginia Breeding Development Fund. That fund receives around $17 million annually, but the money comes solely from gambling. Once weighing in was done by the Senate members, 21 had voted against adopting the bill and 11 had voted in favour of it.
Senator Mitch Carmichael was shocked by the decision. He’s not just the bill’s sponsor, but the Senate’s president, and the loss likely to have been a hit to his ego. He gave last-minute push to the bill just before the lawmakers voiced their decisions, telling his fellow politicians: “Whether we do it this year or next year or the year after, it’s going to happen. Greyhound racing is ending across all of America.”
The state has two dog parks-Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack and Mardi Gras Casino & Resort Though, there is the potential to have more, considering that Florida has just shut down greyhound racing and 41 states have stripped the sport. As a result, West Virginia supporters believe that now is the time to embrace the practise, not push it away if the state feels it needs to find ways to better disperse budget money. There is also the belief that tourism promotion might be a great way to do so.
In West Virginia efforts to suppress greyhound racing are now 0-2. A similar attempt was made in 2017, before it was vetoed, going all the way to the governor’s desk.
As a result of the bill’s failure the tracks are ready to continue going forward. We recognise that at some stage we may need to search for a new market for themselves, and the 1,700 workers working in the field, but are happy to see the debate come to a close again. As Wheeling Island’s GM, Kim Florence, puts it, “We’re going to continue to run live racing with the highest standards of performance and safety for our greyhounds. We’ve been doing that for 40-plus years now, and we’re going to continue to do so.”