by John Kady
The West Virginia Senate is scheduled to vote March 6 on legislation authorizing table games at the state’s horse and dog racing tracks. If the Senate passes the legislation, which already passed the House, and amends in any way, it will have to go back to the House for concurrence on the amendments.
If the bill is passed by both houses, it would have to go to the counties where the racetracks are located for a vote by the people before it can be enacted.
The four tracks in the state already have video lottery terminals. 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.
Resident of Ohio County, where Wheeling Island is located, and further north in Hancock County, where Mountaineer is located, are expected to pass any referendum on expanded gambling. The Wheeling Island spokeswoman said if the bill becomes law, the track would begin construction of space for table games including blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps.
The legislation has changed since its introduction earlier in the session. According to the bill, the tracks would keep 65% of gross receipts and 35% would go to the state. Of the 35%, purses would get 6%, and Thoroughbred and Greyhound breed development each would get 2%. The state would get 79% for debt reduction; local governments up to 10%, and racetrack employees 1% for pension plans.