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Manchin says he's committed to horse racing

March 12, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin said Thursday he was "1,000 percent" committed to protecting the interests of thoroughbred horse racing in the Eastern Panhandle and maintains that his proposed gaming and alcohol agency consolidation bill will only improve oversight.

"I think that basically all we're trying to do is give the quality and professional support that these agencies need and we do that by bringing and reorganizing under one state gaming and alcohol control agency," Manchin said in a telephone interview Thursday.

"There will still be a racing division ... there still will be an ABC division ... that all stays the same," Manchin said.

The governor said he is strongly committed to having horse racing continue to be part of the state's gaming offerings as long as wagers are being made to support it.

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State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said Tuesday that he was aware of objections from the horse racing community about the legislation and has been attempting to obtain a compromise.

Snyder said one of the biggest concerns is insuring that the new oversight board of the proposed State Gaming and Alcohol Control Agency includes people who know about horse racing.

"I think what the fear is that the horsemen will get lost in all of this," Snyder said.

As introduced in the House (2882) and Senate (401), the legislation would transfer and consolidate oversight of all gaming ventures, including racing, boxing, charitable bingo, raffle games and charitable lottery from the tax and revenue division to the proposed State Gaming and Alcohol Control Agency and State Gaming and Alcohol Control Commission.

Snyder said he is pushing for the creation of a position to oversee day-to-day activities of horse racing and also wants a horse veterinarian on the new commission board.

The proposed nine-member board proposed includes one person who would have at least five years in agriculture or veterinary medicine.

While not mentioning the track owner, Penn National Gaming Inc. and the horsemen's group, Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, by name, Manchin said he could not understand the level of animosity and division between the two groups.

"They both have everything to gain and can lose so much and continue to lose so much and the people who don't have the jobs that they should have and could have, if they work together," Manchin said.

"I cannot figure this one out - and I know one thing. When legislators throw out all of these inaccuracies and try to drive more of a wedge, that is not what you call leadership or responsible leadership," he said.

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