WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Island Casino decided it will renew its table games license with the West Virginia Lottery for one year in hopes of working toward a solution in the gambling competition issue.
The new president and general manager of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack Osi Imomoh announced Monday the casino will pay the $2.5 million licensing fee and the 35 percent tax rate, even though it may be risky considering the loss of table games business.
“You’re not making any money like any business owner,” Imomoh told MetroNews Monday. “But the key thing is you also have a duty — if you say you’re going to work through the issues, work the issues. So we’re biting the bullet for one more year to see if we can truly work through them.”
Wheeling has lost 40 percent of its table games revenue to newer casinos in other states. The casino asked state lawmakers earlier this year to lower the licensing fee. Imomoh said the proposal got a warm reception in the state Senate and he hoped to build support for next year’s legislative session.
“Even though it didn’t go all of the way we felt we should at least give it another shot,” Imomoh said.
Other states have lower fees and taxes on casinos. Pennsylvania’s tax is 16 percent and Ohio’s is 33 percent with no annual licensing fee.
“We would love it if it were on par with the competition, Imomoh said. “It would be a great number to see. But the monies here go to good things.”
The table games licensing fee pays for in-home senior services.
Imomoh, who has only been at Wheeling for six weeks, pointed out he believes the competition issue is not just a Wheeling issue but an issue for all of the casinos in the state. So he’s pushing for a balanced solution.
“We need to have the conversation and start to look at it overall to find ways to continue to make gaming viable in this state as a whole and it’s not just for Wheeling. Because we’re all feeling the pinch right now,” Imomoh said. “We can’t do it by ourselves.”
Imomoh said the 100 table games employees at Wheeling Island were relieved to hear the news Monday. He said the employees are the most important part of the process.
In the end, Imomoh said having an additional year should help.
“This year will truly give us all the opportunity to see what that impact (of competition) is and come up with one solution for everybody,” he said.