An argument used frequently to convince state legislators to legalize gambling at racetracks is that it is needed to preserve horse and/or dog racing. Too often when that claim is accepted, it results not just in survival for the racing and breeding industries - but a bonanza.
Ohio already has programs to subsidize horse racing. The Thoroughbred Race Fund and Standardbred Development Fund (for harness racing) paid out nearly $3 million last year.
Now, some legislators want to give the Ohio Racing Commission a cut of the income from tracks where video wagering devices are being licensed.
That is how gambling-funded programs in West Virginia have operated for several years. Percentages of the gambling take go into the funds and are paid out to horse and dog racers and breeders.
That has made breeding and competing with racing dogs and horses a very lucrative business for some people. One greyhound breeder in West Virginia collected $655,012 from the state fund during a 12-month period. A total of more than $5.3 million was doled out through that program. Even Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's mother is involved; her Tomblin Kennel Inc. raked in $268,410 from the breeder's fund in 2010.
West Virginia's gambling-supported horse racing fund did even better. In 2010 it paid out more than $8.1 million to the state's two horse racing tracks, to pay prizes and otherwise help those involved in the racing industry.
Preserving horse racing in Ohio is one thing. Diverting gambling proceeds that could go to local and state governments, paying the money instead so breeders and competitors can reap huge rewards, is another. Ohio legislators should ensure they do not allow that to occur.