Video gambling machines performing at record pace after restart

CHARLESTON, W.Va.¬†—¬†Betting on video lottery machines at locations across West Virginia has tripled its daily average after the machines were turned back on less than a month ago.

State Lottery Director John Myers told members of the state Lottery Commission Wednesday that revenue on the more than 7,000 machines statewide has averaged a total of $1.5 million daily since the COVID-19 shutdown was lifted by Gov. Jim Justice. The normal average revenue is roughly $500,000 a day.

John Myers

Myers said the day of the restart of Limited Video Lottery was record-setting.

“The Saturday, May 30th, when we reopened was the highest Saturday that we recorded since we started keeping records on that since a Saturday in July 2008,” Myers said.

The first two days of LVL play, May 30-31, brought in $3.3 million. Gov. Justice shutdown gambling sites in mid-March because of the pandemic.

Revenue from casinos has been less consistent since they restarted on June 5, Myers said. He said the casinos are following reopening requirements to guard against a breakout of COVID-19.

“A good opening for the most part,” Myers said. “We haven’t had any reports of virus activity at this point. So we’re very happy to see some of the guidelines we put in place appear to be working.”

The Lottery Commission received revenue numbers for May at Wednesday’s meeting which only include the first two days of the LVL reopening. A full month of that revenue along with casino revenue will be in June’s report scheduled to be released in the July commission meeting.

The monthly financial report showed gambling revenue at $28.5 million for May. Most of that, $19.7 million, from the sell of traditional games. Total revenue was down $58 million for the month and $52 million year-to-date. Deputy Lottery Director Dean Patrick reported the Lottery Fund, which is a large revenue source for the state budget, still has a positive balance of $5.7 million but the Excess Lottery Fund is down about $47 million.

The shutdown of casinos and LVL retailers cost the state nearly $100 million in gambling revenue in March and April.

iGaming approved

The Lottery Commission approved iGaming in West Virginia. The gaming option could be available through apps, similar to sports betting apps, by the end of July.

The commission approved an emergency rule for iGaming in early May. State lawmakers approved an iGaming bill in 2019.

Delaware North loan sign-off

The Lottery Commission gave its okay to Delaware North to seek financing for more than $300 million from a group of lenders to help it recover from losses incurred during the pandemic.

The company, which owns both Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling and Mardi Gras in Nitro, is seeking approval of the regulatory agencies where it operates casinos to continue down that path.

“Delaware North is currently receiving commitments from its bank lenders and private placement note holders for $325 million to help fund the business while it recovers from the impact of COVID-19,” an attorney representing the company told the commission Wednesday.

Licenses re-approved

The Lottery Commission also re-permitted a number of license holders Wednesday for the next year including Gov. Justice’s Justice Family Group which owns the casino at the Greenbrier Resort.

CPA Vince Centofanti from Brown Edwards accounting firm, which reviews the financial information of the license holders for the Lottery, said the Greenbrier casino has lost money during the past five years but its parent company, Justice Family Group, has enjoyed profits profits the last two years, including $4.8 million in 2018 and $20.9 million last year.

The Justice Group has already sent in a $635,000 check for its re-licensing fee, the commission was told Wednesday.

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