Word that Revenue Secretary Charlie Lorensen has consolidated the state Lottery Commission, Racing Commission and Alcohol Beverage Control Administration under new Deputy Secretary John Musgrave has state thoroughbred horse breeders up in arms.
Recall that, in 2009, the horse breeders shot down a similar attempt by then-Gov. Joe Manchin to consolidate the agencies as a state Gaming Commission, fearing it was a backdoor effort to raid the thoroughbred purse and breeders' fund programs.
In 2009, the vocal opposition was led by Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, who is no longer in the Legislature. Meanwhile, the other factors prompting the Gaming Commission proposal have become more acute.
With Lottery revenues being squeezed by new casino competition in border states, and with overall state revenues lagging, raiding the $87 million pool of money that goes to thoroughbred and greyhound breeders each year will look more and more tempting to the Legislature and executive branch.
And, as always, the management of the state's four racetrack-casinos would be more than happy to have them become casino-casinos.
The thoroughbred breeders have banked on the Tomblin family's ties to greyhound breeding to protect them, but greyhound racing in general, and the Tomblin Kennel's revenues from greyhound breeding, have been on a sharp decline in recent years.
One can be sure Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed off on the reorganization, so that evidently isn't an issue.
Speaking of Lottery, limited video lottery has always been the bastard child of the state's gaming interests, which is no surprise, given its origins out of the state's quasi-illegal gray machine industry.
On some levels, its hard to generate much sympathy for LVL licensees who just learned they will have to replace or make major upgrades to 6,880 of their nearly 7,500 LVL machines now in operation, at a cost of somewhere between $20 million to more than $100 million, or have those machines go out of service by the end of 2017.
Many of those same LVL distributors and retail locations provided and operated gray machines for years, at considerable profit, and LVL operators and retailers currently divvy up nearly $200 million a year in profits on the LVL machines -- profits generated in no small part by preying on problem gamblers by providing convenience gambling practically at their doorsteps.
On the other hand, within the LVL industry, there are the haves and have-nots -- from the mega-distributors like Southern Amusement and Derrick Video, and busy gaming "hot spots" like the Mimi's chain that account for most of the LVL profits, down to mom-and-pop bars and clubs where the LVL machines are the difference between operating at a profit or loss.
Consider Kanawha County where, in January, the top eight LVL "hot spots" each generated profits in excess of $50,000, topped by Mimi's on Patrick Street, which cleared $85,807 for the month.