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Town Center Mall aim of Nelson’s satellite gambling bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would set up a process for existing casinos to operate a satellite location in the same county where the casino is located.

The bill’s (SB 100) focus is Town Center Mall in downtown Charleston, according to bill sponsor Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.

Eric Nelson

The mall’s struggles have been well-documented.

“It’s shameful to walk through that facility right now. Quite shameful and it’s very unfortunate,” Nelson told fellow Finance Committee members Wednesday afternoon.

According to the bill, an existing casino could seek to establish a satellite location in the same county. The move would have to be approved by county voters in a referendum vote and approved by the state Lottery Commission.

Nelson said there would be at least four steps for the satellite operation to occur.

“It takes us (the legislature), then it takes the referendum. Third, it would take the Lottery to approve this, but fourth it would take some kind of tenant/landlord relationship for that to go into the mall,” Nelson said.

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Nelson said a satellite casino could aid the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center which has undergone a nearly $200 million renovation in recent years.

John Cavacini

A satellite gambling bill was introduced and debated in the 2019 session. It was pushed by the owners of the casino at Wheeling Island who were concerned about how major construction projects on Interstate 70 would impact business. The bill passed the House but didn’t make it out of the Senate.

West Virginia Racing Association President John Cavacini said this year’s bill is not a gambling industry bill but he personally believes it would be a good idea for Charleston.

“I think that if a casino were there (Town Center Mall) it would spur development of some of the offices and businesses that have left down there. It is purely an economic issue,” Cavacini told the Finance Committee.

The bill was approved on a voice vote and sent to the full Senate for consideration.

The Georgia-based Hull Property Group purchased the Town Center Mall last year for $7.5 million.

The mall was the largest downtown-based shopping mall located east of the Mississippi River when it opened in November 1983. The mall currently has only one anchor store.

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