From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 14, 2010.

Speaker Howell Should Pony Up on Gambling
Emily Dooley’s recent news article, “Va. Horse Racing No Sure Bet,” about Virginia’s storied Thoroughbred industry being in serious jeopardy was painfully accurate.

What I found painfully inaccurate were the comments made by House Speaker William J. Howell. He claimed he isn’t the reason beneficial legislation that passes the Senate can’t even get out of a subcommittee in the House. But, the fact is that everyone involved knows no gambling legislation is going to advance on Howell’s watch.

It’s disappointing that such a powerful, dedicated, and thoughtful Virginia public servant turns his back on thousands of Virginians who are suffering economic hardships. It is additionally troubling that he suggests any industry should be able to solve all its problems without ongoing legislative changes.

“It’s never the last thing,” Howell said. Simply put, if the General Assembly could figure out the “last thing” as it relates to any issue or industry there would be no need to meet every year. Things change — the industry, the economy, and technology to name a few. The assertion that any single piece of legislation can resolve all current and future issues facing any industry in our complex world is absurd.

As for his assertion that gambling revenue isn’t “the pot of gold everybody tells you it is,” I’d suggest he check with his colleagues who have spent more than a billion dollars from the Lottery. He might also check with those who benefit from charitable gaming.

It’s time for the speaker to come to grips with the state of gambling in Virginia. People bet on horses, buy lottery tickets, and play bingo legally here in Virginia. If we don’t maximize pari-mutuel wagering and allow it to operate statewide, we are likely to lose our Thoroughbred horse industry and the agribusiness and green space it utilizes. I don’t think that’s the “last thing” Speaker Howell wants either. — Glenn Petty, Virginia Thoroughbred Association.
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