West Virginia tracks approved for 2024 dates; HISA status could impact schedules

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Dec. 13, 2023

West Virginia’s two Thoroughbred racetracks were approved for a reduction in live racing dates for 2024 from the statutory minimums, but officials indicated the schedules could change based upon whether West Virginia racing again falls under the jurisdiction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.

Statute requires Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races to apply for 220 racing programs, and Mountaineer Casino, Resort and Races 210. The West Virginia Racing Commission traditionally grants the requests for a dates reduction if the tracks receive approval from their respective horsemen’s association and mutuel clerks’ union, which was the case again at the commission’s Dec. 13 meeting.

Charles Town was approved for 158 live racing dates from Jan. 3-Dec. 14. Racing will be held three or four nights a week with a two-week break after the Charles Town Classic weekend program in late August, according to a calendar on the casino’s website.

Mountaineer submitted two requests, and the WVRC approved both. One is for 121 days of racing from April 8-Dec. 4, and the other is for 128 programs from April 8-Dec. 11. The Northern Panhandle track will race 128 days should West Virginia remain outside of the jurisdiction of HISA.

Charles Town opted to submit its full calendar, which is similar to that of 2023 minus the two-week break, and return next year to request a reduction should HISA again take effect in the state. West Virginia and Louisiana are both parties to an ongoing legal battle challenging the constitutionality of HISA, which was created in late 2020 under federal law.

During the WVRC meeting, officials noted that the 2024 HISA assessment for West Virginia (roughly $4.4 million) appears much higher than anticipated, thus the concern over having enough funding to pay the bill. The WVRC intends to again ask a HISA representative to participate in a future meeting, probably in January, to address the funding issue.

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in early October heard oral arguments in the case. It’s uncertain when the court will issue its ruling, but the National HBPA, a party to the lawsuit, indicated it could be issued before the end of 2023.