Racing issues need addressed

The time has come for the West Virginia Legislature to revisit the casino laws to determine what can be done to help ensure survival of an industry that local communities have come to depend upon.

The issues at Mountaineer Casino, Race Track and Resort near Chester are many, and they reflect the state of gaming in the Tri-State Area, which has changed dramatically since the casino laws were first passed allowing slots games, as well as the dawn of the full table games era at Mountaineer in 2007.

While the Northern Panhandle casino has worked hard to fight challenges from The Meadows at Washington, Pa., and The Rivers in downtown Pittsburgh, it has done so by drawing many customers from Northeast Ohio, who are being presented new gaming options closer to home.

And while the games of chance have drawn customers, the original purpose of Mountaineer, with its roots as the Waterford Park race track, has been facing tougher times.

Horsemen and the park seem to be in agreement that racing needs to be reduced to keep costs in line, but the question is how to do so without driving horsemen away.

Mountaineer wants to lose 14 days of racing, while the horsemen contend it would be better if a way were found to reduce race cards while keeping the number of race days at or near current levels because fewer weeks would mean horsemen would take their equine athletes elsewhere with greater opportunities.

Horse racing nationwide has been suffering in the face of increased gambling options.

The legislature has set the requirement that the West Virginia casinos need to be operated in conjunction with racing facilities. The racing industry does employ people and contribute to the regional economy. It is time for the Legislature to see that it does all it can to preserve that facet of the gambling industry.