The House of Delegates will consider legislation to lower the licensing fees West Virginia’s racetrack casinos pay to operate table games in the closing week of the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 23-10 to approve the bill that would reduce the current $2.5 million fee to $1.5 million for one year only.
It would apply to Wheeling Island Casino in Ohio County, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Jefferson County, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Hancock County and Mardi Gras Casino in Kanawha County.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall voted against it.
“These are tough times. Revenue is not great,” he said. “We’ve just passed a bill to reduce $28 million (from the state budget). We just passed a bill to do that and now we’re going take $4 million out of the lottery account to plug this hole.”
The licensing fees helps fund in home health services for the elderly.
Supporters of the legislation say, without a fee reduction, officials with Wheeling Island will opt not to renew the casino’s license for table games this summer, costing several hundred jobs.
Because of increased competition from surrounding states, those at Wheeling Island say table games are not making enough money to keep up with costs.
But Senator Hall, a Republican from Putnam County, says the casino could be pulling in profits in other ways, including from video lottery machines. He says he was not able to obtain video lottery numbers for Wheeling Island specifically before Wednesday’s vote.
“Three of these tracks may not need these things and it’s questionable, in my mind, whether the one we’re doing it for does,” he said.