A new bill has been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates that would expand casino gambling in the state by allowing West Virginia casinos with a racetrack the option to open an additional satellite casino in the same county.
Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, introduced House Bill 2901 that could have an impact on four of the five West Virginia casinos:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Jefferson County
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Hancock County
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Kanawha County
- Wheeling Island Hotel in Ohio County
Currently, WV law requires both racing and hotel accommodations to operate a casino. The new bill would eliminate those restrictions for satellite casinos.
The bill was assigned to both the judiciary and finance committees in the House last Thursday.
Wheeling Island wants to expand
Delaware North, the owner of both Wheeling Island and the Mardi Gras Casino, wants to add a betting location at The Highlands, a retail park located just outside of Wheeling. A new satellite casino would offer video slots, table games, sports betting and possibly simulcast racing.
Delaware North is trying to hedge its bets. The company is concerned about Wheeling Island’s immediate future because of annual flooding and construction on the Interstate 70 bridges. A new retail casino and sportsbook would help make up for potential losses.
Kim Florence, regional president, and general manager of Wheeling Island spoke about the concerns to the Times Leader:
“We are also concerned with the upcoming bridge and road construction that will take place in the next two to three years. … It will certainly impact people’s ability to visit the casino. This bill could provide us with a proactive way of protecting the tax revenue that the casino produces.”
There are stipulations within the bill that give the City of Wheeling the money it’s due even after The Highlands opens for use. The bill also says the municipalities will divide any excess revenue beyond Wheeling’s guaranteed share.
While Delaware North is looking to protect the financial interests of Wheeling Island, Mardi Gras Casino is also looking to expand. It’s reportedly considering the Town Center Mall in downtown Charleston for its satellite.
WV Casino expansion has initial support
This new bill seems to have support in all the right places.
Florence discussed her legwork with the necessary people to get this new legislation in place:
“I’ve worked with a lot of people on this. I’ve worked with the city, and worked with delegates and senators.” Florence continued, “We have a good relationship with the county. We’ve had discussions, and when we were done they were fine with the revenue stream.”
The bill has the support of West Virginia Racing Association president John Cavacini and the other racetracks in the Mountain State. Casino gambling and WV sports betting have positively impacted the horse racing industry.
“As long as the language is in the bill that says that this pertains to any licensee of a para-mutual license–that they have the opportunity to put a location in–all the other tracks are on board.”
With little resistance in front of them, it seems to be just a matter of time until there are more satellite casinos popping up across the state.