It seems that a majority of West Virginians want greyhound racing eliminated and they oppose the $15 million in subsidies the industry receives from the state. This according to a survey commissioned by anti-greyhound racing group Grey2K USA Worldwide.
The survey sanctioned was conducted by pollster Mark Blankenship and his Mark Blankenship Enterprises from October 29th to November 1st. They polled 403 people registered to vote in West Virginia and likely to vote during the 2020 elections.
What Were the Results
Among the questions that were asked was “Do you generally support or oppose the state government spending between $13 million and $15 million a year in gambling revenue to subsidize commercial greyhound breeding for racing at two casinos in West Virginia?”
Fifty-seven percent said they strongly oppose the money going to breeders, with 22 percent saying they somewhat oppose, 10 percent somewhat support and 6 percent strongly support.
There are currently two greyhound race tracks located in West Virginia. The Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and Tri-State Greyhound Park in Cross Lanes.
Previous Attempts to Stop Funding
The Legislature in 2017 passed bill to cease the funding to breeders, but the legislation was vetoed by Governor Jim Justice.
Under current state laws pertaining to video lottery at race tracks, all casinos that have dog tracks are required to send 1.5% of video lottery revenue collected to a special account established by the West Virginia Racing Commission known as the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund. The state distributes the money from the fund back to breeders, Most years, that is about $15 million.
Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, questioned the use of the word “subsidize” in the survey and said the language misled voters. He also believes the poll exemplifies an intensified effort by greyhound racing opponents to pass legislation eliminating the industry during the next regular legislative that begins in January.
“If you ask any question in that form, you would expect people would say ‘we shouldn’t give them a subsidy,’” Weld said. “But we’re not talking about a subsidy. That’s a misnomer. The casino just has to send the money to the state before it comes back to the track.
“If you are not from an area with a track and this doesn’t affect you, you’re obviously in favor of ending what you think to be a subsidy. They’re asking a misleading question and these are obviously skewed numbers.”
But What About the Jobs
It is estimated that 1,700 people are employed in the dog racing industry in West Virginia, and a second question in the poll asked respondents if they were more likely to support dog racing in West Virginia based on the jobs.
57% polled said it made no difference to them, while 27% said they were somewhat more likely to support and another 9% percent said they were much more likely to support.
Weld believes the survey is being used by greyhound racing opponents as the 2020 legislative session approaches. Senate President Mitch Carmichael already has indicated he will push the issue of stopping the practice of sending the money to dog breeders.
Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K US, defended the organization’s use of the word subsidy. He pointed to the definition of subsidy, which is “a sum of money granted by the government or a public body to assist an industry or business so that the price of a commodity or service may remain low or competitive.”
Grey2K wasn’t surprised by the findings, but was surprised by the high number of people indicating they were opposed to the funding for the dog breeding industry in West Virginia, Theil said.
The group, however, didn’t expect the amount of opposition shown in the Northern Panhandle.
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