Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack decided this week to pay the annual $2.5 million licensing fee to the state and extend table games for at least another year. That decision will save about 100 jobs and help protect the casino from losing even more business to the growing number of competitors in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Wheeling Island General Manager Osi Imomoh implied the renewal is also an act of good faith in hopes the Legislature will lower the 35 percent tax rate or the licensing fee that casino operators pay. “We’re biting the bullet for one more year to see if we can truly work through (the issues),” Imomoh told me on Metronews “Talkline” this week.

That’s going to be a challenge. The Legislature and the governor would have to agree on restructuring the taxes and fees.  While the state has come to count on the big money that flows into the treasury from gambling—about $440 million this year—many politicians are reluctant to be seen as supportive of the industry.

Senate President Jeff Kessler is an exception, sort of. He told me on Metronews “Talkline” this week that he wants to keep the tax rate where it is, but he is open to pro-rating the table games licensing fee based on the number of tables.

Kessler and others tried something similar earlier this year. The Senate approved 23-10 a one-year, $1 million reduction of the table games licensing fee for all race track casinos. However, the bill ran into stiff opposition in the House of Delegates and eventually died.

Lawmakers are pushing a comprehensive study of the state’s gambling industry to quantify how it is being impacted by increasing competition in surrounding states. Kessler says legislators can use the findings to re-evaluate the taxing structure for gaming.

But with 46 Republicans in the House, as well as some Democrats who are reluctant to support gambling, any legislation that lowers the tax liability for casinos will be a tough sell. Combine the existing reluctance with the fact that every member of the House is up for re-election in 2014, so it would take a Herculean effort to win approval.

The argument against adjusting the taxes and fees will be that the state is not giving a break to other businesses, so why help gambling?

The nuanced, but accurate response is that the state—like it or not—is in a partnership with the casinos. The state licenses them, taxes them at a separate rate from other businesses and regulates them. And as a partner, the state has a significant fiscal stake in the success or failure of those casinos.

The study, when completed, will provide greater detail of what we already know; the casinos sprouting like mushrooms in neighboring states are quickly wiping away West Virginia’s regional dominance and cutting deeply into business.

The decision for lawmakers will be whether to push back against that competition or accept the inevitable decline of the state’s casinos.

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Comments

  • Jack Whittaker

    WV needs legal hookers.

  • Doug

    Pennslyvania 4.6 billion in revenue
    Ohio 3.3 billion in revenue

  • jeremy

    OK here it is. We hit the casinos from time to time. We have learned the hard way that you do not gamble in WVA because they cannot pay out due to high taxes. We go to PA where you have a chance.

  • vashti

    Mtneer suffers right now because of the opening of the meadows. i don't like either place for very long but gambling my money away is not my thing. i prefer to take other gambles like being a progressive democrat in WV

    • FungoJoe

      There is NOTHING progressive about a Progressive democrat. They are regressive, repressive, arrogant, elitists and DINOs. That from a conservative democrat. Progressives have hijacked the democratic party much like muslim extremists and the Taliban have hijacked the Islam religion. Progressives are the American Taliban.

      • Habib Haddad

        Right you are FungoJoe. Just like the TP'ers have hijacked the Republican Party. There is no moderation or reaching across the aisle for compromise anymore. Sad.

  • take

    part of the 'lack of business' for places like Mtneer and the Island is lack of guests. i have been to both and i have been to Vegas. they don't ever have a lot of ppl there, and thus it makes it 'no fun' to stay and play in those places. half the fun at "21" or roulette is having a lot of people around you - cheering and having fun. it's a whole diff atmosephere from a casino in Vegas and then in the two mentioned above. perception is reality. and if it is perceived no one is there i am not going to stay... maybe i'll go to the North Shore.
    in the end it all equates to loss of revenue to those local places and then loss of revenue to the state.

  • mntnman

    Gambling is a legit business. It brings big bucks into WV. You may or may not like it, but it is a big taxpayer. So, we need to find ways to keep it competitive and permit it to do its business in WV. Curious why so many want the tax dollars, but won't support the businesses. (Not really -- too many politicians speak out of both sides of their mouth.)

    Wonder why the Chamber isn't all over this; this business needs help. Curious why the pro-business community isn't all over this. Hmmm.

    • Wowbagger

      Correction:

      Gambling WAS a big taxpayer. Those days are over as big new shiny casinos are built on all of West Virginia's populated borders.

      • mntnman

        No, they still pay millions -- I don't know about you, but that is still a lot of money.

        • Wowbagger

          I am saying that going forward casino gambling will gradually provide less and less until it costs the taxpayer money. We have already provided 10 million as I recall to refurbish casinos. The rate of this decline might or might not be rapid. I'm not a gambler, although in 1995 I put 75 cents in a slot machine in Sparks, Nevada, but I realize that gamblers like crowds and that big flashy casinos like the ones I have driven past in Pennsylvania. The gambling industry will not put money into West Virginia casinos, but they have already proven they will lobby the legislature to fund improvements and tax breaks to improve their bottom line. Why not?Lobbiests are cheap and West Virginia legislators are cheaper.

  • Aaron

    I don't think we should give the gaming industry an unfair advantage over other businesses. Along those lines, we shouldn't put them at an unfair disadvantage either. The annual license fee is uncalled for and the increased tax rate in unfair. Tax them at the same rate as any other industry and let them succeed or fail on their own.

    • Habib Haddad

      Aaron, the tracks and Greenbrier pay 35 % and the limited video lottery (the little mom and pop's and fraternals) pay 51%!

  • NorthernWVman

    Ok well I am a little confused...I thought generally speaking that republicans are more for deregulation?!?! Why so many regs and stipulations for the gambling industry? Is it because they believe no conservative gambles? If so they are sadly mistaken.

    • Wowbagger

      Confused. I dont' think so! You are purposefully ignoring one simple fact.

      Republicans have had very little to do with the direction of West Virginia state government since 1932!

      • mntnman

        No but republicrats sure have. Far too many registered democrats and elected democrat officials are actually republicans. Or at the very least very conservative democrats. They share in the blame.

        • Wowbagger

          Wrong!

          A Republicat is a mythical beast designed to distract fools and those who are not too observant from the true situation.

          The West Virginia Democrat political machine now is totally two faced. This has been a gradual evolutionary process since 1932.

          To traditional conservative, Jacksonian West Virginia Democrats (a dying breed nationally) machine Democrats pretend to be conservative to garner votes and keep traditional WV Democrats on the plantation. To the Progressives, who have taken over the Democratic Party nationally and that I suspect you support, they are lapdogs just looking for a little love and willing to bend over backwards (or whatever) to get some national Progressive Democratic attention.

          An excellent example is Joe, two faced Manchin sponsor of the Schumer, Toomey, Manchin background check bill.

          For the record I consider myself Libertarian, but have been observing West Virginia politics for a very long time.

          • mntnman

            Respectfully disagree -- I know far too many republicrats. They do not deny it. My father was one. My county has elected them for years. We'll just disagree on this one I suppose.

          • mntnman

            Oh, and Manchin is a classic republicrat.

      • GregG

        "But with 46 Republicans in the House, as well as some Democrats who are reluctant to support gambling"..........since you seem to have missed this.

  • Wowbagger

    Hoppy,

    The gambling industry played the one party West Virginia legislature and governor(s) like an old fiddle in order to gain a beach head in the region. I wonder how much these miserable excuses for lawmakers cost "big gambling" in total? I doubt we will ever know, but I'll bet they were remarkably cheap.

    This effort to "open up" the region to gambling was successful and neighboring states fell for the ploy. The next step was legalizing gambling in or near big population centers and nearby transportation routes. Casinos in these more desirable locations are in various stages of completion and gambling is everywhere.

    The gaming industry is now done using West Virginia and our stupid, greedy lawmakers. This current crop of stupid political hacks lack the vision of one celled animals!


    It's our problem now! I say throw the bums out.

    West Virginia has a second (or third) chance with the Marcellus, Utica, and lesser plays, but time is short to plan and attract new industries based on cheap energy and the the chemical feedstocks that are now becoming available.

  • thornton

    Tough to make a bed when every day finds you more and more short-sheeted.
    But, the state and all involved knew of the sheet stealers.

    Gambling is as addictive to the State as it is to the folks sitting on stools hoping that lightning strikes before they have to go home to their family....empty yet again.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Skippy,

    WV must stay ahead on the sin curve. Yes we have gambling & casinos but nowadays who doesn't?
    Ohio-Yes!
    Pennsylvania-Yes!
    Maryland-Yes!
    Virginia-No but they actually have industry friendly laws for other industries but WV isn't like the mothership.

    It's time for WV to go all out. We must distinguish our great State from the others.

    I submit to you the Jim N Charleston 5 pt plan to help our struggling Sin industry.

    1. It's time for sports gambling to be made legal. This would increase interest in the conference formerly known as the WVIAC and the WVSSAC could be the 1st high school sports governing body that had betting on its games. So many degenerate gamblers have no legal place to place their bets.
    2. It's time to get a Bunnyranch franchise in our great State (currently ranked 49th in economic development and average & median household income) and have legal prostitution. WV has beautiful ladies of the night who currently walk Summer Street in Charleston (or they were last time I saw a movie at Cinema 7) that need a stable bed to do business in. WV should help these ladies and stop the war on women. We could put a double wide bunnyranch farm next to every one of the 4 casinos in WV. Lets face it WV has plenty of double wide housing. The surrounding States won't know what hit them.
    3. WV needs legalized drugs. Not just Mary Jane, but Meth, Crack, Heroine, & lets not forget Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (LSD) should all be legal. People in Oxyana are already taking it. Why not tax it?
    4. Form the UFC, no not that mma fighting, I'm talking about the Underground Fighting Critters. Just as we got gambling out of the back room, lets get the roosters & puppies out of the barns. Where these competitions are now ran by suspenders and flannel shirts and cut off jeans, let's put them in the hands of men wearing tuxedos surrounded by women in evening gowns. Let's put class back in rooster & dog fighting. Go 1 step further, Michael Vick will be out of the NFL soon. Invite him and have the 1st ever Mike Vick Invitational dog fighting contest. If the great State of WV owns the broadcast rights, the PPV $$$$ would be huge.
    5. CA is dying. Let's get our elected representation to reach out to San Fernando Valley, CA and get the porn industry to move to WV. Imagine the local parody films they could make and the pub our great State could get.

    Lets make WV truly "Buck Wild" & wonderful and help residents and the tourists get to that Almost Heaven feeling.
    Think of the tax revenue WV would get from these new streams. You see this revenue is so important for Seniors & our great State's children and that Skippy is who I care about.
    If someone is against these new revenue streams, its because they're against our Seniors & our State's children and they're probably against our Veterans too. It's a shame that people are against gambling, legalized sports gambling, legalized prostitution, rooster fighting, & against porn movies because they're against Seniors, our great State's children, and not forget our Veterans.

  • Medman

    Does the Governor or Legislature have an economic development plan for WV?

    • Habib Haddad

      Why yes. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail and the King Coal Expressway are our economic development plan and ReConnect McDowell is our educational component. The rest of the state can pound sand.
      Sincerely,
      The leadership team

  • DonaldH

    I think we should have wall-to-wall gambling through out the state-- slot machines in every Kroger's and Black-Jack tables at every McDonalds--- we should also place a few more toll booths along the TP and Morrisey needs to finagle a legal way for toll booths all along I-79 and the rest of 77 and 64 as well.. Our State leaders get all that done and we won't need coal jobs to sustain the state government or our citizenry-- we'll all just lay around the reservation and get fat!!

  • CaptainQ

    Well Hoppy, it is sad that our state has become so addicted to gambling revenue that there seems to be no turning back. From the various lottery and 'gray' machines to the four racinos, seems WV's treasury must have this ongoing cash flow to survive. However, in the case of Wheeling Island, time as well as the WV legislature may be against them. They are in a sense, gambling on the future by renewing their table gaming license. With growing competition from neighboring states, this looks like a very high risk maneuver. I really can't see the lawmakers in Charleston cutting them a tax/fee break, so this could be the last hurrah for them.

    What's worse is that if gambling income DOES have a sharp falloff in the future, guess where the WV government will go to extract MORE taxes from. Look in the mirror, the answer will be staring back at you.