As the crooner Frank Sinatra sings in My Way, “And now, the end is near, And so I face the final curtain”, it looks like greyhound racing faces extinction in West Virginia. Financial support for the industry is passing through the Senate, and it’s not looking good for the dog and track owners, along with the punters.
Introduction: West Virginia Greyhound Racing Faces Extinction
Having said that, this is US politics, so things don’t change without a fight or some serious horse trading. Presently some members of the Senate Finance Committee are determined not to go down without a scrap. Though the present bill wouldn’t ban the sport outright, it would stop the generous state support which is needed to keep greyhound racing functioning. Presently there are just a couple of tracks that offer greyhound racing in the Mountain State. These are the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes and the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack. If dog racing is not your thing, and it appears that more and more people feel that way, then you can still have a punt with the online sportsbook, Bovada.
The West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund pumps around $17 million into the industry each year. There are those who believe that this funding could be better spent on education or state infrastructure. Sen. Rollan Roberts (R-Raleigh) is one of those voices. As he points out, greyhound racing is both unpopular and unprofitable. The funds keeping it afloat are derived from casino taxes. Doesn’t State support just sound like good old Socialism!
Casting Pearls Before Swine
This is not the first time the fund has been targeted by the legislature. A couple of years ago, a very similar bill landed on the desk of the State Governor, Jim Justice. But he killed the bill over concerns with regard to job losses. With a crafty eye on the voters, he claimed that he “couldn’t turn his back on communities like Wheeling that benefit from dog racing.” Of course those opposed to the bill fair from West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, which includes Wheeling Island. “This is extremely concerning and disturbing, this whole bill,” said Senator Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, as reported by online sportsbook news in the US. “It’s embarrassing. I’m actually embarrassed to be part of the majority party when stuff like this comes up. If there was a dog track in the Eastern Panhandle, we wouldn’t be talking about his,” he continued.
Florida Ban a Game Changer?
There is a sort of “tail wagging the dog” argument being put forward by other opponents of the bill. They claim, that since neighboring Florida has banned all greyhound racing, if West Virginia continued with the sport, then there would be an influx of players from Florida. Good try! But they should keep in mind that 69% of all Floridians voted to banned the sport in 2018. And that’s in a state that was considered the historic home of greyhound racing over the years. In fact, 11 out of the nations 17 greyhound racing tracks were situated there. Now with the sport dead in Florida, West Virginia could be hosting up to one third of all racing nationwide. And they are hoping the punters will follow. Unless they choose to stay at home and gamble with any of these online sportsbooks sites in the US.
Little Public Support
The bottom line is that the industry is hoping this round of funding will help keep it’s head above water until the new punters come across the state lines. But the real problem is that most West Virginians, just as in voters in Florida, are opposed to greyhound racing. Full stop! In 2019, a survey by Mark Blankenship Enterprises found that 81% were opposed to subsidies for dog racing. Of course the industry was quick to fire back that these subsidies are not Government money as such, but money lost by gamblers. The two dog tracks are also casinos and they claim to donate a massive 1.5% to the fund. This level of generosity is not a joke. But these days, if you want a flutter with an online sports book, then people tend to head over to Bovada.
Animal Rights and Welfare
Governor Jim Justice is still in two minds about the issue. But he said that his stance is changing.“Where there’s this much level of smoke, there’s got to be fire somewhere. You look across the country, and there are so many tracks that have closed from the standpoint of the dogs. And the primary complaint has to be centered around the care for those animals and everything,” Justice said. This is probably the main point of contention. Animal rights and welfare now play an important part in any debate, in particular one involving the racing of animals. To that end, Governor Justice added, “If, in fact, that is a legitimate issue, I don’t want West Virginia to be the last harbor of dog racing.”