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Editorial - The link some can't see

February 17, 1998

The West Virginia House of Delegates' approval of a bill to replenish the state's thoroughbred fund is a welcome development for the state's breeders in general and the Charles Town Races in particular. The bill's sponsor, Jefferson County Del. John Doyle, should press on, despite some objections from some critics who don't understand the issue.

The thoroughbred fund, which pays a bonus to any West Virginia breeder who wins at a state track, now holds about $800,000, down from $2.5 million several years ago. Doyle's bill would pump it up by funneling 4 percent of the net income from video lottery into the fund.

The bill needs the legislature's approval because, by law, proceeds from video lottery go to senior citizens, education and tourism. Critics like Del. Robert Pulliam, D-Raleigh, say they're not sure how the bill would benefit those areas.

Video lottery was approved as a measure to save thoroughbred racing and the many Jefferson County jobs that depend on it. If the industry fails, Doyle says, there'll be fewer tax dollars to support education or seniors' programs.

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We agree, but that's not the only reason to back this bill. If the Charles Town track isn't a tourist attraction, we don't know what is, and if the tourists don't come to Jefferson County for horse racing, it's probably for the county's rural atmosphere.

Horse racing is one way to maintain that rural atmosphere, by providing horse breeders with a cash incentive to hold onto their farms. Without that incentive, they might sell that land for development, which tends to raise everyone's taxes, including those of senior citizens on fixed incomes.

Plainly stated, Doyle's bill makes sense only to those who are bright enough to see the connection between tourism and preservation of the rural landscape, and how the loss of the latter would hike everyone's costs. Press on, Del. Doyle, because somebody's got to keep those with tunnel vision from wreaking havoc on horse racing in general and Jefferson County in particular.

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