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Wheeling city manager takes fight to capital to keep greyhound breeding development fund

WHEELING, W.Va. — A bill that would eliminate the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund is catching opposition from local leaders.

Wheeling City Manager Bob Heron recently made the trip to the state’s capital to explain what the industry means to the Northern Panhandle.

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Supporters say dog racing is inhumane and cruel to the animals-- and they want that money pulled.

“We felt it was important to go down and testify before the committee and relay our concerns regarding that legislation,” Herron said.

One of Herron's biggest concerns is jobs. According to an estimate by West Virginia University, 1,700 jobs statewide are created by the industry -- and about 1,000 of those are in the Northern Panhandle.

Herron fears what would happen if the industry would end, especially just months after the closures of Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital.

“This would be another blow from an economic perspective for sure because jobs will be lost. The crossover play that was estimated between 10 and 20 percent of the business of the casino would also be lost,” Herron said.

Senate Bill 285 passed through the finance committee, meaning the committee recommends it pass through the full Senate.

Because the legislation has not been introduced to the full Senate yet, Herron hopes to have a chance to talk to a few legislators about the bill and the industry.

“We feel as though we still have opportunities to talk to senators when it does go to the floor and try to sway them to see the benefit this industry has, not only in this region, but the state as a whole,” he said.

Herron says that outside betting from across the country has been growing, therefore bringing more money into the state.

And he believes the business can advance if this bill does not pass.

“The wagering on dog racing has spiked and gone up recently over the last year. So, the business has the potential to grow, and it could grow very well here in West Virginia,” Herron said.

The bill will head to the Senate floor for a first reading.

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