A bill that would cut a million dollars off the annual table games licensing fee for the four racinos in West Virginia is still alive in the state Senate but faces an uncertain future.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning following a long debate. Statehouse observers said changes made to the bill may make it difficult to pass this session.
The original bill would have reduced the annual fee from its current $2.5 million to $1.5 million for Mountaineer, Wheeling Island and Tri-State gambling resorts.
An amendment by Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, added the Charles Town casino and also changed how the reduced fee money would be recovered. The original bill wanted the shortfall bridged from the breeder’s purse fund, but Snyder’s approved amendment would pull money from the casino modernization fund that helps the casinos purchase new video lottery machines.
Sen. Snyder claimed the original version was unfair because it targeted thousands of workers who make live racing happen at the tracks.
“The introduced bill takes away from those who make their living from live racing,” Snyder said.
West Virginia Racing Association President John Cavacini spoke against Snyder’s plan. He said taking the money from the modernization fund would only further hurt the gambling business.
“The industry is at the point now where we have to make decisions as it relates to business models. The modernization program is a part of that business model and we would not like to see it changed,” Cavacini said.
The bill has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee.