A History of Staying Ahead of the Curve
West Virginia has a proven track record of successfully partnering with the gaming and racing industry to support the local economy, jobs, education, community initiatives and infrastructural improvements. Racing has a rich history in our state, with the earliest reports of pari-mutuel wagering taking place at the Charles Town Turf Club in 1933. Shortly thereafter, Wheeling Downs opened and, in 1951, Waterford Park (later renamed Mountaineer Park) opened and is still the only one-mile track in the state. Racing flourished over the course of 40 years and took a giant leap forward with the implementation of casino-style gaming in West Virginia near the end of the century.
In 1987, West Virginia allowed for Video Lottery Terminals to be placed at Mountaineer Park and, in 1994, the Racetrack Video Lottery Act passed, legalizing video lottery machines at West Virginia racetracks. The law stipulated that a percentage of each dollar in gaming revenue would be dedicated to racing purse funds and the impact has been substantial. In the 20 year period covering 1997 through 2016, nearly $1.2 billion was paid in the form of thoroughbred racing purses. Over the same span, more than $20 million in additional funding has been dedicated to the breeding development fund, which allowed the West Virginia foal crop to grow from 174 registered foals in 1996, to a high of 671 in 2007. And while purses used to be measured in the thousands prior to the authorization of Video Lottery Terminals, the state now plays host to two of racing’s most lucrative events in the Grade 2, $1,250,000 Charles Town Classic and Grade 3, $750,000 West Virginia Derby, while the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics has claimed the title of the country’s richest day of state-bred racing for several years.
West Virginia Gaming and Racing History
West Virginia Racing Commission is formed
West Virginia Racing Commission begins overseeing operation of racetracks.
Pari-Mutual Wagering Begins in West Virginia
Charles Town Turf Club Opens
Wheeling Downs Opens
Located in the northern tip of West Virginia, Waterford is the first race track in the United States to get slot machines.
SHENANDOAH DOWNS OPENS
Five-furlong horse-racing track located just outside the eastern limits of Charles Town, WV.
WHEELING DOWNS DISCONTINUES HORSE RACING
SHENANDOAH DOWNS CLOSES
The grandstand remained until 2006 when it was demolished. The site is now a training facility operated by the adjacent Charles Town racetrack.
WEST VIRGINIA LOTTERY CONCEIVED
West Virginia Lottery regulates video lottery and table games.
WATERFORD PARK RENAMED MOUNTAINEER PARK
Mountaineer remains the only mile racetrack and only turf course in West Virginia.
RACETRACK VIDEO LOTTERY ACT ENACTED
3 racetracks – Mountaineer, Wheeling, and Mardi Gras – begin operating with 1,200 video lottery machines.
HOLLYWOOD RACES AND SLOTS OPENS AT CHARLES TOWN RACES
LIMITED VIDEO LOTTERY GAMES APPROVED BY THE LEGISLATURE
Provides up to 9,000 video lottery terminals to be placed in retailer locations with specific types of West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration licenses.
MOUNTAINEER AND WHEELING BEGIN OPERATING WITH POKER TABLES AND, EVENTUALLY, FULL TABLE GAMES
Games include Poker, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Craps, Roulette, and Three and Four Card Poker
MARDIS GRAS BEGINS OPERATING WITH FULL TABLE GAMES
THE GREENBRIER BEGINS OPERATING BOTH VIDEO LOTTERY AND TABLE GAMES
HOLLYWOOD RACES AND SLOTS BECOMES HOLLYWOOD CASINO
Casino begins operating with full table games.
GREENBRIER CASINO AUTHORIZATION PASSED
Requires the passage of local referendum.