The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 13, 2012

Bet on it

The Register-Herald

— While most observers in West Virginia were paying attention last Tuesday to what candidates were being elected, many in the Eastern Panhandle and at the state tax and lottery departments were eyeing a referendum in Maryland that would permit table games and gambling on a larger scale.

Voters approved that measure and, in the near future, expanded casino operations will begin in Maryland.

That’s bad news for Charles Town and the Hollywood Casino, and West Virginia’s revenue stream coming from legalized gambling.

This is just the latest move from bordering states that will directly impact our state’s coffers.

Just how much?

Supporters of the table games legislation in Maryland said it would divert between $1.2 million and $1.5 billion annually out of Charles Town and into Maryland.

Big bucks.

West Virginia has been rolling in the dough for a few years now, first by approving slots and then table games. But our neighbors in Pennsylvania, Ohio and now Maryland have wised up and want their chunk of the action.

At the present time, the casinos in Charles Town, Chester, Wheeling and Cross Lanes, are accounting for more than half of the total revenues our lottery commission is reaping every month.

New casinos in Ohio and Pennsylvania are already cutting into the two Northern Panhandle casino sites, and when things really gear up in Maryland, expect our revenue take to change, dramatically.

Gambling is what it is and West Virginia has bet hard on it.

To date, the Mountain State has lined its fiscal pockets with tax dollars generated by the industry. But the pie is getting cut up into much smaller pieces.

State leaders need to be preparing plans now for how they will overcome the significant decline in lottery dollars and to a degree, tourism revenues — and it’s coming soon. Waiting is not an option. You can bet on that.