Recently, HB 4333 passed the West Virginia House of Delegates and it is on its way to the West Virginia Senate. This bill would reduce certain video lottery net terminal income distributions and table game revenue distributions to the Horsemen's purse account by 10 percent.
More than 10 years ago, many horsemen and women moved to West Virginia because they were "Open for Business." Now that the barns are built, the fences are up and the horses are here the governor wants to change the rules of the game. This industry flourished due to promises made in terms of purse contributions and development funds. These promises were part of the deal when the voters of Hancock County approved the Racetrack Video Lottery in 1994, and later the Table Games Act.
The horse racing industry in West Virginia supports more than 7,300 jobs in West Virginia, contributes more than $321 million in total business volume to the state's economy, and generates $4.6 million in total state tax revenue. But this isn't just about money, it is about families who depend on the industry to earn a living. These families are part of our community. We are members of the schools, churches, sports teams and local organizations. The governor and the state are turning their back on an entire industry and changing the rules of the game now that we are fully invested.
This fall, Penn Gaming (PNGI) will open a new racino less than an hour away in Austintown that will substantially reduce both the video lottery revenue and the racetrack handle. They are exempt under this bill from any reductions. Yet the horsemen's purse account is being reduced by 10 percent to cover budget deficits.
The horsemen at Mountaineer HBPA are thankful to our delegates Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones for voting against this bill in support of the horsemen.
John W. Baird