House committee advances casino satellite bill

WHEELING — Legislation permitting Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack to establish a second gambling location in Ohio County has passed committee, and is on its way for a vote in the House of Delegates.

House Bill 2901 was introduced by Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, on Feb. 7. It passed the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Storch expects the bill could get its first reading in the House as soon as today.

The measure would allow licensed casinos with dog racing to establish a secondary location for racetrack video lottery terminals and table games. The second location must be within the same county as the racetrack, according to the legislation.

Only Wheeling Island and the Mardi Gras Casino — located in Cross Lanes in Kanawha County — have dog racing. Both are owned by Delaware North.

Wheeling Island has indicated an interest in locating a satellite video gambling location off Interstate 70, probably in the area near The Highlands. No location has been finalized.

The main facility for Wheeling Island often faces flooding issues, and dealt with water twice in 2018.

The Mardi Gras Casino, meanwhile, reportedly is hoping to locate within the Town Center Mall in Charleston. The financially troubled mall was recently sold for $35 million to the U.S. Bank National Association, and most recently learned it would be using Macy’s as an anchor store.

The measure states if a racetrack locates its video lottery terminals outside of its municipality, the municipality would receive the same share of tax funds up to the amount received prior to the move.

That means the city of Wheeling would not lose any gambling revenue due to a satellite location.

The city of Wheeling directs much of the tax revenue it receives through gambling at Wheeling Island to its fire and police pension funds.

The bill states that any excess revenue above what Wheeling would be guaranteed would be divided between the municipality and the “new municipality.”