(Full disclosure: I am a member of the WV Racing Commission. The views expressed here are strictly my personal ones).
There is nothing as exciting as horse racing. Saturday will be the 45th running of the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. What a better time to take a look at this day and the impact the racing industry has on our State.
First, there will be horses from the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands along with nationally known stakes and Triple Crown winning jockeys. 119 horses (including “also eligible”) will make up a nine card program.
West Virginia native Brereton C. Jones is the breeder of Divine View who will start from post position seven in the Derby. Jones is a former resident of Point Pleasant who entered the Thoroughbred breeding business and went on to become Governor of Kentucky. It will be exciting to have him back home.
Saturday’s race is not the only exciting thing about horse racing. The Thoroughbred and Greyhound industries have a significant impact on West Virginia’s economy. A study conducted by the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University documented the 2012 impact.
The study found more than $321 million in total business volume was contributed to the state economy. The industries support more than 7,300 jobs and generated more than $100 million in total employee compensation. State tax revenue generate from racing is $4.6 million. The researchers made note that this does not include the spillover effect on other industries.
Like other sections of our economy the racing industry is not without its problems. Purse funds have been dwindling due various cuts in supporting funds and new competition casinos are confronting. Lottery revenues which impact racing were down from peak of $1.56 in 2006-07 to $1.21 billion for 2013-14 budget year. The Charleston Gazette reported the number of casino machines in use was 7,354 dropping 53 percent from the maximum of 13,900.
Efforts need to be made in both the lottery and racing industries to look for new ideas to increase revenue to help state leaders avoid even thinking about a taxpayer increase.
If you cannot make it to Mountaineer on Saturday join the live one-hour telecast on Fox Sports Network (FSN) that begins at 5 p.m.
There is another exciting West Virginia racing opportunity at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on October 18th when the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics will be run.