Bill to permit satellite track location passes West Virginia House

in Lottery

WHEELING — Legislation that would allow Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack to establish a satellite video lottery location in Ohio County passed the West Virginia House of Delegates Friday.

Also approved was a separate bill permitting the state’s four race tracks and the casino at the Greenbrier Resort to offer “interactive wagering” games, such as poker, through electronic devices.

Both bills are now headed to the Senate as the legislative session heads into the homestretch of the 60-day session.

House Bill 2901, sponsored by Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, passed 80-15 with little comment or debate prior to the vote. All Northern Panhandle delegates voted in favor of the measure.

The bill permits West Virginia’s 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 in the state. Both are owned by Delaware North.

Wheeling Island has expressed interest in establishing a second location for video lottery games off of Interstate 70 within or near The Highlands.

More remarks were made on the House floor prior to the vote on HB 2934, the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act. It passed the House with a vote of 72-22, with all Northern Panhandle delegates voting in favor.

The legislation describes interactive wagering as “the placing of wagers remotely and in real time on any authorized interactive game with any interactive gaming provider, using any communications technology, by means of any electronic or mobile device or other interface capable of providing a means of input and output.”

Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, rose against the bill calling it “a huge expansion of gambling.” This is in opposition to the West Virginia Republican Party’s platform and “flies in the face of the people who put us here,” he said.

“I thought gambling was supposed to be a mechanism to bring people in to the state,” he said. “It seems this is a mechanism (for people) from hundreds of miles away.”

He pointed out a provision in the bill that allows the West Virginia Lottery Commission to establish deals with governments outside West Virginia that would permit the gambling outside of the state’s borders.

“Where’s the foot traffic when this is a computerized mechanism of gambling?” he asked.

Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston, expressed concern about age limits for interactive wagering and whether a college student at West Virginia University would start gambling through their devices.

“We could be giving a student (state) money to go to college, and he would take it and try to double it by gambling,” Jennings said. “It’s like we are not afraid to instill gambling as a good idea.”

Dianna Graves , R-Kanawha, was among the bills sponsors — though she explained she is “adamantly opposed to gambling” and respects the Republican Party’s stance against gambling.

“I am a co-sponsor, and I intend to vote yes,” she said. “The way this was explained to me showed there was a huge black market for these games. And you know who doesn’t care about that WVU student — black market dealers.

“I support this bill to prevent incidents like that from occurring, and to take away from black market dealers.”

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, explained the state would receive 15 percent of the gross deposits from interactive gaming under the bill.

When the rate previously was set at 10 percent, estimated total economic impact in was $17.5 million this year and up to $45.3 million by year five, he said.

“We’re talking about the freedom to play online poker,” he said. “If you are a WVU student, you can already get online and play poker. And where are those locations located? Overseas? If they can deposit their loan money and play, does West Virginia get a penny? West Virginia can capture the market for that.”

Fluharty invited House members to try the interactive gaming once it is online in West Virginia.

“And if you want to play poker against me, good luck,” he said.