March 6, 2013
'Wheeling Island Survival Act' would help W.Va. 'racinos'
Newly opened competition in border states draws down revenue

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Industry-backed legislation intended to help West Virginia racetrack-casinos hard hit by competition from new casinos in three border states was introduced in the state Senate on Wednesday (SB455).

West Virginia Racing Association President John Cavacini stopped short of saying the bill is necessary for the survival of the four "racinos," but said he considers it "the Wheeling Island Survival Act."

Squeezed by competition from two Pittsburgh-area casinos to the east and by casinos in Columbus and Cleveland to the west, management of Wheeling Island announced this week it is considering eliminating table games at the casino as a cost-cutting measure.

Before the openings of the competing casinos, table games at Wheeling Island were bringing in about $2.5 million a month, Cavacini noted. Now the casino's table games revenue runs about $600,000 to $700,000 each month.

In January, Wheeling Island's table games revenue fell to $585,064, according to state Lottery Commission reports.

Cavacini said the bill would not only preserve a key source of state Lottery revenue for the long term, but also immediately help 100 to 150 Wheeling Island employees keep their jobs.

As drafted, the bill would cut the annual table games licensing fee for each casino from $2.5 million to $1 million and reduce the state tax on casinos' table game receipts from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The bill also would take $6 million annually out of the more than $100 million a year the Lottery pays into purses and breeders' funds for thoroughbred and greyhound breeders and owners, so that the $10 million of funding that goes to the Division of Senior Services for in-home care programs remains intact.

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