Giving some flexibility

Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester remains a profitable business, but a substantial dropoff in revenue has prompted company officials to look for ways to cut costs. Reducing the amount of horse racing at the facility is one of them.

But last week, state Racing Commission members balked at a Mountaineer proposal to eliminate all racing in December. Instead, the panel suggested Mountaineer take other action to cut spending, such as reducing the number of daily races from nine to eight and trimming the “purses” paid to horse owners.

Mountaineer officials’ proposal would have resulted in decreasing the total annual number of racing days at the track to 196, down from the current 210.

Central to company officials’ thinking was action earlier this year by state legislators, cutting as much as $3.5 million from state support for horse racing purse funds. That affects both Mountaineer and the Charles Town Races casino/track in the Eastern Panhandle.

Competition from casino/racetracks in other states also is a critical factor. While facilities such as Mountaineer once were the only game in town in this part of the country, they now must compete with other “racinos.”

The effects of that competition can be seen in the company’s financial reports. Mountaineer, part of the MTR Gaming Group Inc., reported $13.76 million in net income for the first six months of 2013. But that figure dropped to $11.48 million for the first half of this year.

As we have reported, that has ramifications for each and every West Virginian, not just for Mountaineer. Local and state governments receive part of the proceeds of gambling. When a casino’s revenue drops, so do the amounts going to government.

Taxpayers have a stake in how well the casinos are doing, then. For that reason, racing commission members were right to allow Mountaineer some flexibility on the number of races at the track – and should continue to do so.