A bill calling for the expansion of West Virginia’s casino industry found its way to the state’s House of Delegates floor earlier this week
If it navigates its way through the West Virginia Legislature successfully, the legislation would pave the way for the state’s four racetracks that also feature slot machines and table games to open satellite casinos at nearby locations.
House Bill 2901 is spearheaded by West Virginia Racing Association President John Cavacini and is co-sponsored by House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder. As mentioned above, the piece was introduced earlier this week and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. If approved there, it will then go to the Finance Committee.
Under West Virginia’s current gambling law, slot machines and table games can only be operated at the state’s four racetracks – Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Mardi Grass Casino and Resort at Cross Lanes, and Mountaineer Casino and Resort in Hancock County, as well as at the Greenbrier Resort. Smaller betting parlors across West Virginia can feature a limited number of slot machines.
Under HB 2901, the four racetracks will be allowed to build satellite casinos within the limits of the counties their main casinos are located.
Wheeling Island Wants Satellite Casino at The Highlands
While HB 2901 would allow all four racetracks to open a satellite casino, it is believed that only Wheeling Island would take advantage of the opportunity and expand its operations. The hotel, casino, and racetrack complex is located on Wheeling Island in the middle of the Ohio River.
Mr. Cavacini said yesterday in an interview for WV Metronews’ Talkline for Thursday that being located on the island, the property is frequently forced to close due to heavy floods, which hurts the business.
The racing official further explained that the racetrack’s owner, Delaware North, has expressed concerns over the upcoming construction on I-70. The project will include the bridge over the Ohio River, and the main exit for the casino is on that bridge. Extended road work will make it more difficult for visitors to reach Wheeling Island, which too will affect the business.
Delaware North wants to build a satellite casino at the Highlands shopping center located just east of the city of Wheeling. Mr. Cavacini explained yesterday that the complex offers easy access along I-70, which would certainly lead to an increase in the number of slots and table game players.
HB 2901 does not include any revenue projections, but Mr. Cavacini said that the city Wheeling will keep its gaming revenue share even if some of the casino business is moved to The Highlands.
As mentioned earlier all four racetracks would be able to open a satellite casino, if the piece of legislation survives in the Legislature. However, Mr. Cavacini said that Wheeling Island would probably the only one to open a satellite facility, as the other three racetracks already have premium locations, unlike the island-based property.
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