Wheeling Mayor, City Council: Leave Greyhound Breeding Development Fund Alone

WHEELING — Some West Virginia legislators again are working to end the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund that supports dog racing at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, which raises concerns for city leaders because of how much revenue they get from bets placed there.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jim Justice traveled to Wheeling to veto legislation passed in both the Senate and House of Delegates that would have ended the fund.

Mayor Glenn Elliott and city council members hope it will not get that far this time.

“Apparently, we have to be prepared for this to come up every time the Legislature is in session,” Elliott said. “It is so frustrating because it is not a subsidy. None of that money comes from taxpayers.”

Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, introduced House Bill 119 Monday during the Legislature’s special session.

She referred to the breeders’ fund as “wasteful spending” by government, saying the state could save $15 million per year by ending the fund.

However, Elliott, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman and Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday dispute the notion the fund contains any money that belongs to the government.

“If you don’t go to the track, you are not paying for any of this,” Thalman said.

“It’s just a pass-through,” Scatterday added. “It’s so unfair that people call it a subsidy.”

In City Manager Robert Herron’s $34 million budget for fiscal 2017-18, revenue directly attributable to the casino includes: racetrack video lottery, $450,000; gaming income, $525,000; and racetrack license and commission fees, $68,000.

Portions of the city’s revenue from hotel/motel tax, wine and liquor tax, and several other taxes also result from the presence of the track.

City leaders fear all of this funding — in addition to 1,100 jobs attributed to greyhound racing at the track — will disappear if the fund ends.

“We do not believe this legislation is going anywhere, but we have to stay on top of it,” Elliott said.

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