CHESTER, W. Va. — The Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Hancock County plans to build an outdoor patio gambling area, following a battle against a countywide smoking ban in enclosed public spaces.
The casino said the Clean Air Act, effective July 1, would take away from generating any revenue if their gamblers decide to travel to other states where smoking is allowed.
Last week, the Hancock County Board of Health granted the casino approval for the outdoor patio. The ban includes restaurants, bars, gaming facilities, hotels, public parks and concert venues.
Chris Kern, general manager of the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, said the situation was complicated.
“Obviously we want to be a good citizen of the county and the state. We want our employees and the community to be healthy, but we also want that revenue that most of which we get out of state,” said Kern.
Most of the casino’s customers come from Ohio where some of the casinos are smoke-free with small outdoor patios.
“With as many games as we plan on having, it should allow us to take care of those customers that want to take part in smoking as well,” he said.
Currently, Kern said the area is enclosed, but they want to remove two external walls and make sure they do what they can to fit the Clean Air Act.
“We’re going to have possibly 200 slot machines and six table games in this space,” he said.
Kern said the weather could impact the new area, so they want to enclose it as much as the can. The space will include radiant heaters, large ceiling fans, and wind shears to take care of the elements.
Kern said they based all their numbers off what happened in other states when they implemented similar smoking exemptions.
“Every other state that’s done this is experiencing anywhere from 15 to a 30 percent decline in revenue,” he said, “The West Virginia Lottery’s projection came in at basically right at 18 percent, which was their estimation of what the impact would mean for us.”
Contractors hope to have updated sketches of the outdoor area this week.
Kern said the company plans on opening the new space July 1, the day the county’s Clean Air Act goes into effect.