The West Virginia Legislature is considering expanding gambling. The location might surprise you.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard from Pendleton County farmer Steve Conrad on Thursday. He urged the committee to support Senate bill 492. It would allow expansion of gaming to include a not yet developed site near Franklin.

One of the men behind the project at Fisher Mountain is an auto industry icon Lee Iococca.

“Lee Iococca is part owner of this gaming facility. He, of course, is world renowned with his bailout of Chrysler,” Conrad said. “He looks for rural areas like Pendleton County and has had fantastic success in other facilities.”

Full House Resort currently owns five casinos across the country from Indiana to Nevada, New Mexico to Mississippi. Conrad says the company is very interested in the 1,400 acres available for development at Fisher Mountain. There’s already an 18-hole golf course on site. Full House wants to build a resort with a casino. 

“It’s a project that’s been thought completely through. It has a fantastic chance of succeeding,” according to Conrad.

But in order to succeed it will need legislative approval. Currently table games are limited to the state’s four racetracks and the Greenbrier Resort.

Conrad stressed to lawmakers the Fisher Mountain site wouldn’t compete with any of those facilities for gambling dollars. Instead, it would draw in visitors from places like Richmond, Roanoke, Winchester and Lynchburg, VA, as well as Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.

“When you can take somebody else’s money and bring it into Pendleton County or West Virginia and you can use their assets, it’s really a great idea,” Conrad said.

Fisher Mountain was originally designed as a vacation community back in 2007. But the real estate bubble burst the next year and the project was never revived. Conrad says now that Full House has shown serious interest, a casino/resort employing 300-plus would be a economic blessing for a county that’s struggling when it comes to unemployment.

“Economically we need some relief,” stressed Conrad. “And we think this is the best opportunity we’ve seen in a long time to make that happen.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill on to the Senate Finance Committee.

 

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Comments

  • I. Yona

    Just wondering what will be the fate for those investors who bought the land in the casino -proposed area?

  • Judy

    I think it is a great idea especially with the Navy pulling out of Pendleton Co. Hopefully it will bring in good jobs and revenue and our property taxes will remain stable.

  • Fred Herz

    Fat possums run at night.

  • dave r

    33 MAY BE CONSIDERED A MAJOR HIGHWAY,BUT ITS CONDITION IN THAT AREA, IS HORRENDOUS! THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA

    • John Shaw

      You could extend the South Branch Valley Railroad (SBVR) up the South Branch of the Potomac River from Petersburg to Pendleton County. Passengers from the D.C. area could take the scenic route through “The Trough” on the Potomac Eagle excursion train with the Treasure Mountain Casino at Fisher Mountain as their destination. That would avoid the treacherous drive over the Shenandoah Mountain on the Blue Gray Trail. The mountain is not that bad in good weather; one of my great grandfathers carried the mail across the mountain by mule-drawn wagon.

  • cutty77

    We are in The Gambling Business,can't turn back now.That is a beautiful place,and we need to get people up there.We have no choice.

  • Bob

    Tourism is great, the only thing wrong with it is that jobs created from tourism are at or below minimum wage scale. The people that come to view our beautiful mountains return to their mansions and upscale jobs and comment to one another "how beautiful and pristine Pendleton county is", while here at home we try to eat some of that beautiful scenery and belive me it does not digest too well.

  • Bruopiner

    Isn't the legislature reducing the fee that casinos pay for table games? If this is built and it is successful which is highly doubtable, it will only be a matter of time until someone else wants to do the same thing. Then they'll be coming to the state to bail them out or they'll go under and then you'll have a bigger population in Pendleton County (people who moved here dependent upon employment at the casino/resort) with even less propects.

    When will people realize that casinos and gambling are not the answer; and, when will the legislature stop this insanity.

    As far as Pendleton County, the natural beauty is what needs to be marketed as with most of the rest of West Virginia. We're within a few hours of the big population bases in the Eastern United States. There are lots of casinos that people could go to, but not so many places were it is quiet and peaceful, you can hike or take a train ride into the mountains.

    I can see the tax breaks and TIF's coming now that will eventually be funded by the entire state.

    • Kathryn

      The natural beauty of Pendleton County IS being marketed, but the money to do so comes from Hotel/Motel taxes that are given to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which are currently not enough to do a huge marketing campaign. A casino would mean the construction of a new hotel and more business to the exsisting motels and cabin rentals, which, in turn, would allow the Pendleton County CVB to market the natural beauty of Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob, etc, more effectively. 80,000 people pass through the Discovery Center at Seneca Rocks every year and they are only open for 6 months out of the year, BUT a lot of those people come and see the rocks, maybe camp or stay a motel for a night. The county cannot continue to depend on the success and popularity of Seneca Rocks. You have to be able to show people all the great things they can do in Pendleton County through advertising and not hope that they hear about it from someone else.

  • Bob

    There have been many opportunities for growth and business in Pendleton county, but there are so many "comeheres"that are retired and have nothing else to do but fight against development of any sort. They have made their money elsewhere and now want to fight any kind of progress for Pendleton county. It is so sad that the majority of the native Pendletonians want progress but will not speak out. I for one would like to see my children and grandchildren stay in Pendleton county, but there is nothing available, what choice to they have. I say "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead".

  • John Shaw

    I don't have much at stake in this race other than that I was born four miles down the Troublesome Vally Road from this proposed site. Deer Run is no longer on the map, since my grandmother died and the post office was closed. You don't have to speculate about the impact of a casino in this rural community. The Kenan Institute at the University of NC did a study on the impact of Cherokee Casino. You can Google it or click on this link if I can publish it -- http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/~/media/Files/kenaninstitute/UNC_KenanInstitute_Cherokee.pdf

  • Wowbagger

    Let's see now,

    The northern panhandle casinos are bleeding money, need a big tax break, and are considering or maybe planning to abandon table games. These are near major population centers, major arteries and have other complementary attractions like Cabelas and Oglebay Park. Yet they are loosing out to the big newer shiny casinos in Pennsylvania and soon Ohio.

    I contend this demonstrates that as soon as a West Virginia casino becomes really profitable a neighboring state will approve a bigger, better casino nearer to their population center(s) and suck up all or most of West Virginia's profits.

    Virginia is a purple state split between the DC area and the rest. I seriously doubt that anyone in West Virginia or Virginia for that matter can say with absolute certainty what Virginia's policies will be going forward. Also, Maryland is not that far away.

    Now why does Pendleton County need a casino to help Virginia decide if they need a casino and if they do where to build it? All of these same arguments were used to open up Wheeling Downs to machines and later table games. I am sure I heard the argument that Pennsylvania and Ohio would never consider allowing gambling one time or another.

    Lots of West Virginia counties are drying up and frankly should be merged to reduce the overhead of too many fairly well paid elected officials without enough to do. This would free up money for public works. Sewell, Thurmond, South Side Caperton, McCreery, and many other once thriving small communities statewide are gone because they no longer have a reason to exist.

  • Kathryn

    Fisher Mountain is located directly off of Route 33 which is a major highway for traffic from Virginia to Indiana. Pendleton County is no a remote location just because it is located in the mountains. On the topic of Virginia opening casinos, Virginia has no intentions of ever proposing casinos in that state and it doesn't look like it is anywhere in their future, so casinos in that area would not be a problem. Lawmakers in Charleston are in favor of this because this is one of the last hopes from Pendleton County and several citizens of the area, like myself, have been to the legislator to talk about the benefits. There have been several opportunities that some citizens have let pass by, but those same people are starting to realize how important it is to bring a new and large business to the area with the closing of the Navy Base. Pendleton County has nothing to offer to the young people of this community so they move away. This casino will expand the opportunities in Pendleton County beyond gambling, as well as the surrounding counties. More businesses will begin to thrive with this casino and new business will also open. The community college in Morrefield will also be able to expand and offer more classes to enroll more students for the table games training that may not have ever considered furthering their education beyond high school. Another casino opening will also aid in promoting West Virginia to other states, as the WV Division of Tourism offers matching advertising grants to all the state CVBs that rely on casino revenue. Tourism is the third largest industry in the state and it grows 6% every year. This is a win, not only for Pendleton County ad it's citizens, but also for the state of West Virginia.

    • Jenise

      Kathryn,
      I completely agree with everything you have to say. Pendleton County is slowly dying off. Nothing new is coming in and there is nothing here to make younger people want to stick around. Tourism in Seneca Rocks can not support this county forever. Franklin has got to do something to keep it from going under. A casino sounds great to me, and should to anyone that cares for this mmunity.That is If they hope to continue to have a community to care about.

  • MIKEYD

    NEVER DEPEND ON GAMBLING FOR REVENUE i wonder if the company donated any money to the people on the senate judiciary panel

  • CaptainQ

    Great point, Larry, and besides, what do you think would happen IF there was a successful casino at Fisher Mountain? Then more casinos would pop up just across the border in VA and then BOOM, there goes your economic gain. That's what happened to all of the racinos in WV, right?

  • Larry

    Pendleton Co. is a very remote, inaccessible place, I wouldn't think the location would be viable, plus gambling is a waste.

  • CaptainQ

    This bill ISN'T anything new, Jennifer. Before he was elected Ag Commission, Walt Helmick tried to get a bill similar to this passed in the legislature last year, much to the chagrin of the residents of Pendleton County! Many residents there do NOT want a casino in their backyard, which is why Walt's bill, just like THIS one, contains language to 'bypass' an official vote by county residents on this proposal. Once again, the legislature is attempting an "Eleventh Hour end run" around the law and the will of the people to FORCE a casino unto the helpless citizens of Pendleton County.

    Of course, with the Navy Base closing down next year and another major employer in the county facing an uncertain future (Pendleton Manor), a casino might be the county's only hope for gainful employment in the short run. Still, it seems very odd that so many lawmakers in Charleston seem to be on board with this bill. Have to wonder outloud whether or not many of them have something to 'gain' if this bill passes.

    • Mike

      I agree this bill was introduced last year and would bypass the county residents vote. This is a GREAT idea. As a resident of the county for over 30 years I've seen our residents vote down or turn away many opportunities that would have benifited the county. As for the residents that are opposed to the casino, they are independently wealthy and have no need for jobs or the extra income that the casino would bring. The people that think this is a bad idea don't care about the counties welfare or the kids in the school system that this would benifit. This is a last chance for the county or we all will continue watching the rich get richer as the lifeblood of our county gets starved out.

      • CaptainQ

        If it's such a 'great idea," Mike, why not allow due democratic process to take place and allow that county's residence the right to vote for or against it? It just seems very sneaky and underhanded to me to do this 'table dance' around the law to FORCE this casino on Pendleton County. Makes me wonder if this will be the wave of the future? Wealthy developers conning the lawmakers in Charleston into trashing the people's voting rights to get what they want without having to 'defend' it to county residents.

        • Scott McConnell

          So what you and the state are telling everyone in free world is that if you want to start a business in Pendleton County WV the people have to vote on it. What if someone wants to move here do we need to vote on that to.

        • Mike

          I still believe in personal rights. If the company owns the land and has the money why should it be someone's decision that has nothing in it. I don't remember a county vote to allow subway, shell, or the golf course before. I may have been opposed to several things in this county but its not my decision what someone does on their property.