by John Kady
The West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates legislation authorizing table games at the state’s four racetracks March 9, and Gov. Joe Manchin has indicated he would sign the bill.
If approved by Manchin, the four counties in which the tracks are located would schedule local-option referendums to authorize blackjack, poker, craps, and roulette. Similar votes were held in the counties on video lottery terminals, which each track now operates.
The two Thoroughbred facilities are Charles Town Races & Slots and Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort; the two Greyhound tracks are Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center and Wheeling Island Gaming. A spokeswoman for Wheeling Island, like Mountaineer located in the Northern Panhandle region of West Virginia between Ohio and Pennsylvania, said table games would bring in an estimated $10 million a year in revenue for Wheeling Island alone.
The state will get 35% of table games revenue and will charge each track a $2.5-million license fee to operate the games. Of the state's share of gaming revenue, purses for Thoroughbred and Greyhound racing will get 2.5%, while 2% will go to the respective breed development funds. Meanwhile, pension plans for racetrack employees will get 4%.
Racetracks lobbied for the legislation by touting the jobs table games would create, and they also said the games would help them better compete with slot-machine casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania.