An editorial from The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Greyhound racing has almost died in West Virginia, according to research funded by the state Senate. Patrons at “racinos” today spend nearly all their time at video gambling machines, not watching dogs chase make-believe rabbits.
In 1990, fans bet $63.9 million on dog races at the Cross Lanes track — but this wagering fell to $4.7 million in 2013, the study says. That’s a stunning 93 percent drop.
The Cross Lanes and Wheeling dog tracks gave the state $29.3 million in 2012, which was spent for purses for owners of winning dogs. Many of those owners live out of state.
“In fact, 2013 Wheeling Island purse awards to Kansas residents were higher than purse awards to West Virginia residents,” the report said.
However, a West Virginia University analysis last year found that dog racing boosts the state’s economy by only $31.2 million per year — so the state’s purse subsidy is almost as large as the total economic benefit.
“It does not make sense to spend more than $29 million to make a little over $30 million with so much of that money going to residents who live in other states,” researchers concluded. Meanwhile, the number of greyhounds killed and injured in West Virginia races has climbed dramatically. Between 2009 and 2013, deaths were 162 and wounds were 3,331. Why should state government continue giving $29 million yearly to dog owners for such dismal results, when the state could make much better use of the money? “This is a subsidy program for greyhound breeders in Kansas for races that no one is betting on in which dogs are dying,” Carey Theil of a national dog-protecting organization said.
We hope the 2015 Legislature diverts the $29 million from racinos into more worthy state purposes. Dog-racing has faded to a shadow of its old self. Giving millions to breeders no longer is a good investment.