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Satellite casino bill moving along in the House of Delegates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s four racetrack-casinos will be allowed to establish secondary locations within the counties they’re situated in a bill House Judiciary approved Wednesday.

HB 2901 would allow the racino, as they’re sometimes called, to open a second casino site in any building it owns or leases within the same county. The site would not offer a track or hotel, but could offer table games, slots, sports betting and possibly simulcast racing.

The bill provides that the city hosting the original racino would continue to receive its due share of funds; any funds above that generated by the new site would be divided between the original city and the locality hosting the new casino. This is a measure to prevent the new site bleeding off money from its parent’s host.

As MetroNews previously reported, the West Virginia Racing Association supports the bill. Association President John Cavacini said Delaware North, the company that owns Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos, would like to open a satellite location at the Highlands shopping, dining and entertainment development just outside of Wheeling.

Cavacini said Delaware North is concerned about a loss of traffic at Wheeling Island from annual flooding and the pending major construction work on the Interstate 70 bridges.

Cavacini said none of the other track owners have expressed an interest in satellite locations at this time.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, was concerned that the bill would allow a racino to arbitrarily open a satellite site in a barn, or in an empty house in a neighborhood.

Lottery Director John Myers said that the bill requires Lottery Commission approval for any application for a second site, and all business is conducted at public meetings to allow public comment.

Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, offered an amendment to allow a racino sitting in a county where the largest city straddles two counties to be allowed to open a satellite in the adjacent county.

He said this would apply specifically to Mountaineer Casino Resort in Hancock. Hancock’s largest city, Weirton, sits partially in Brooke and most of Weirton’s development is taking place in Brooke.

Fast objected that this would bypass the county referendum process a prior Legislature established for the four current racinos.

The amendment failed. The bill passed in a voice vote, with Fast and Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, voting no.

It’s also referred to Finance, but the committee approved a motion by Delegate Mike Pushin, D-Kanawha, to request that reference be waived and it go straight to the floor.

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