Lawmakers debate ending greyhound development fund

It would end the money transfer from the state's excess lottery revenue funds that is given out by lawmakers. (WTOV)

Hundreds of jobs could soon be eliminated from Ohio County, leaving hundreds more greyhound dogs in need of a home.

That's if a bill that eliminates the greyhound breeding fund makes its way through the West Virginia House and Senate.

This bill is a piece of the Republican-backed budget. It decouples greyhound racing and video lottery, meaning the breeders wouldn't get any of the cash that comes into a casino when you place a bet.

Greyhound racing has been in Wheeling for more than 40 years. Dogs replaced horses in the 1980s and it created a boom. With better payouts, it eliminated the human element of jockeys and people were more attracted to the dog races.

“Gambling greyhound racing over the years has generated billions for West Virginia,” said Steve Sarras, West Virginia Kennel Owners Association.

Supporters of Senate Bill 4-37 say eliminating the development fund could save the state around $15 million, but Sarras says getting rid of greyhound racing will cost West Virginia much more.

“If the bill passes in its current format July 1 every single kennel and farm will be forced to close its doors,” Sarras claims.

Sarras says that would mean around 6,000 dogs would need adopted, which could cost the state millions. He also says 1,700 people would be unemployed, another cost to the state.

Right now, casinos must have live racing in order to maintain video lottery machines. Money collected from gambling is dispersed to different organizations through the state's excess lottery revenue.

Greyhound racing wouldn't benefit if this bill passes.

“If you never go to the casino or racetrack, none of your dollars goes towards a greyhound purse fund,” Sarras said. “Zero, not a penny.”

“It was designed to promote and preserve live racing, expand business and jobs,” he said.

The first step in eliminating the fund would be passing the finance committee, but the vote was delayed this week.

It's expected to be back in finance next week.

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