Bills: Vote on Table Games, Ban on Account Bets

West Virginia lawmakers are considering two bills--one that would prohibit account wagering, and another that would authorize county referendums on the addition of casino-style games at Thoroughbred and Greyhound racetracks.

The legislation on account wagering and electronic betting, which was introduced in the House of Delegates Jan. 11 and sent to the House Judiciary Committee, would prohibit a gaming licensee--including racetracks, which now have video lottery terminals--from providing or maintaining "any service or device which, in effect, constitutes a financial account or line of credit for the purpose of account wagering." The bill also says licensees can't "provide, maintain, or possess any service or equipment intended for use, in whole or part, for electronic betting."

The bill would amend the code of West Virginia. "Account wagering," the bill says, includes any games of chance.

As for the table games bill, supporters have taken an approach similar to that in Kentucky, where the Kentucky Equine Education Project advocates a "let the people decide" approach to racetrack casino gambling. The West Virginia legislation would authorize referendums on table games in the four counties with pari-mutuel racetracks.

The state has two Thoroughbred tracks--Charles Town Races & Slots and Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort--and two Greyhound tracks--Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center and Wheeling Island Racetrack & Gaming Center.

Racing industry representatives were in the state capital of Charleston the week of Jan. 30 to lobby for table games. Track officials, horsemen, and kennel owners believe games such as blackjack and craps would help West Virginia racinos maintain and perhaps increase business in the face of competition from slot-machine parlors scheduled to open in Pennsylvania later this year.

The bill was introduced in the House of Delegates Feb. 1 and sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

The table games bill sets the state tax rate at 12% of adjusted gross receipts. The bill says 8% of revenue would go to purses. Under the VLT law, horsemen at Thoroughbred tracks get 15.5% of the revenue. (At Charles Town, regular purses get 14%, and breed development 1.5%).