The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 8, 2013

That day is here

State can no longer place its bet on lottery, gambling revenues

— We knew the day would come.

The lottery and gaming industry in West Virginia has produced big money for more than two decades. Billions have been funneled into the treasury from gambling; education, senior citizen programs and the tourism industry have benefited tremendously from those dollars.

But West Virginia no longer can consider gambling as a stable source of funding.

Many factors are now in play that will have a negative impact on this revenue stream including major competition, specifically in the form of casinos, from surrounding states.

The West Virginia Racing Association highlighted its plight to lawmakers earlier this week and is seeking relief from the state when it comes to licensing fees and taxes.

Closing down table game operations, furloughing employees and reducing racing cards and purses are all being talked about.

In addition to the competition from neighboring jurisdictions, which has taken away lots of out-of-state visitors and their money, the economy has also slowed and people just don’t have the same amount of disposable income to “play with” if you will.

A few years back, when the issue of video lottery machines and licenses was being heavily debated, opponents of gambling were sounding the red alert on numerous fronts including how the pot at the end of the rainbow would eventually dry up.

While many supporters of gambling expected it wouldn’t come this soon, that day is here.

Sure, millions are still going to be generated from the lottery and gambling, but the golden age certainly is over and legislators need to be thinking now how they are going to deal with the fiscal fallout that has begun and will continue.