CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the industries that could have one of the largest impacts on the state’s budget moving forward is trying to adjust to changes caused by the coronavirus.
One of Gov. Jim Justice’s executive orders last week shut down the casinos operating in the Mountain State and the Limited Video Lottery businesses. It’s a move that impacts approximately 12,000 jobs directly and one that could cost the state as much $52 million a month in gambling revenue.
West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association President John Cavacini said he understands the decision. He said casinos were already practicing social distancing when Gov. Justice issued the order.
“They were trying to do everything they were asked to do and they did do that but at a critical time like this I’m not sure that would have been enough,” Cavacini said.
Cavacini said the employees that were sent home are being paid at least for the first full week they are off and maybe additional days after that. He said the owners of the tracks are also discussing a benefits package that could stretch for as long as two months.
The American Gaming Association reports 616,000 casino gaming employees nationwide are off their jobs because of the health and safety decisions made in various states. Nearly 95 percent of the 465 commercial casinos are now closed.
Michael Haid, who serves as executive director of the West Virginia Amusement and Video Lottery Association, said the shutdown is impacting 1,250 LVL locations in West Virginia.
“This situation is an absolute nightmare,” Haid said. “There are approximately 6,000 people employed in the industry. It makes the state well over $200 million a year and all of a sudden it comes to a grinding halt.”
Haid said he has his fingers crossed that the shutdown will last only last a couple of weeks.
“If we’re up and running in two weeks I think everybody’s going to survive but it’s going to hurt us—it’s life, it’s nobody’s fault,” Haid said.
Haid tweeted Monday the LVLs have received a break from Gov. Jim Justice. The annual May 1 payment to the state of $1000 per machine has been delayed.
— Michael Haid (@Michael_Haid) March 23, 2020
Haid and Cavacini both said they are concerned about the impact a lengthy shutdown would have on the state budget.
“We’re going to have to come up with additional revenue and it’s going to have a significant impact on each one of the departments of state government and there will have to be some hard decisions made by legislative leadership and the governor,” Cavacini said.
“This is tough stuff. As a West Virginian, I’m concerned about the hole this is going to blow in the budget,” he said.