It’s time to adapt at W.Va. tracks

An editorial from The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Especially during the past few years, many businesses and industries have changed, some dramatically. Some have not made the cut. Look at steel and aluminum manufacturing in the Ohio Valley, once mainstays of our economy. Now they are all but gone.

Or consider coal and electric power industries, under fire from harsh new emissions rules.

When companies and workers in such industries complain, they are told that changed circumstances are too bad – but they will have to “adapt.”

Now, those in the horse and dog racing businesses in West Virginia, along with the racetrack-casinos where they operate, are looking at new realities. Competition from other states has hurt the casinos. State legislators have trimmed subsidies to dog and horse racers and breeders.

Owners of the racetrack-casinos – dogs in Wheeling and Cross Lanes, horses in Chester and Charles Town – are attempting to adapt.

One of the strategies envisioned by the horse tracks is reducing the number of days they offer racing. State law requires both tracks to hold 210 racing days each year. Reducing that would save the tracks some money.

Members of the state Racing Commission seem sympathetic to the tracks’ concerns. But state law ties the agency’s hands.

Commission members are thinking of asking the Legislature to reduce the required number of racing days to 185.

That has prompted warnings of dire consequences from some in the horse racing industry. Legislators already have sliced subsidies, they note. Fewer racing days would cut into their income even more.

At one time, that income made West Virginia a very attractive state for horse and dog racers and breeders. Subsidies for the two industries totaled about $92 million annually just a few years ago. Even after the minor cuts made by lawmakers, an enormous pot of money is shared among racers and breeders.

Many businesses in our state – and many families – have had to adapt to new economic realities. The horse and dog racing industries should not be immune. Racing commission members should ask for the reduction in racing day requirements, and legislators should approve it.

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