Safety accreditation ordered for West Virginia racetracks

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 23, 2016

The West Virginia Racing Commission has mandated that the state’s two Thoroughbred tracks undergo the accreditation process offered by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance.

Under a motion approved Sept. 20, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort will have 15 days to begin the application process for accreditation, which is based upon a written application, an on-site review of facilities and practices, and meeting a code of standards.

The application will cost $15,000 for Charles Town and $10,000 for Mountaineer. Per the WVRC motion, the funds will come from a video lottery terminal capital improvement account for racing-related projects.

“I see value to undertaking a process that looks at all elements of our sport,” WVRC member Bill Phillips said. “Getting outside experts to give a fresh look at issues that may need to be addressed makes a lot of sense to me.”

Track officials during the commission meeting had several questions, including whether the VLT capital improvement fund could be used for application fees for subsequent reaccreditations and for any projects necessary to gain NTRA accreditation. They were told by commissioners the intent is to draw on the VLT fund, expenditures from which must be reviewed and then approved by WVRC staff.

The money has been used for everything from maintenance equipment to new clubhouse dining room windows. In response to a question of whether the VLT funds can be used for the safety accreditation program, WVRC senior deputy attorney general Kelli Talbott said: “I believe that it can.”

Safety and Integrity Alliance accreditation covers six general areas: injury reporting and prevention, creating a safer racing and training environment, uniform medication and testing policies, safety and health of jockeys, aftercare programs for retired racehorses, and wagering security. Thus far, 23 tracks are fully accredited.