Commission renews casinos' licenses [Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va. :: ]
(Charleston Daily Mail (WV) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 23--The state's five casinos will be relicensed to continue table gaming operations, despite loss in revenue.
The state Lottery Commission voted unanimously to reissue licenses, as long as each facility pays the relicensing fee by July 1. Charleston accounting firm Gibbons and Kawash audited each facility and noted although competition from newly established casinos in other states has hurt West Virginia, the state's casinos are in "solid financial condition," and two have stockholder equity totaling tens of millions of dollars.
"Probably the most obvious things we noted in our review of racetracks and casinos is the effects of competition on at least three of the racetracks and casinos," said Tim Gibbons of the accounting firm. "Charles Town, for instance, was down $90 million for the year ended 2013. Wheeling was down $25 million and Mountaineer was down $22 million for the year 2013."
Those three facilities are located near state lines, and Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio have recently made pushes to expand their gambling footprints. As a result, West Virginia's racetracks and casinos located near the border have seen decreases in both the number of gamblers and revenue.
The state Legislature passed table gaming legislation in 2007 to include blackjack, roulette, craps and various types of poker. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill permitting video lottery and table games at licensed historic resort hotels -- currently limited to The Greenbrier.
Since then, Maryland voters approved a constitutional referendum in 2008 to allow slot machines at five privately owned facilities and again in 2012 to allow table gaming at those five facilities plus a sixth in Prince George's County. The closest facility to West Virginia is the Rocky Gap Casino Resort, located in Allegheny County. It opened in May. The Horseshoe Casino is currently under construction in Baltimore and will feature 80 to 110 table games, up to 3,750 slot machines and a World Series of Poker-branded poker room.
Pennsylvania features 12 casinos scattered across the state. Three of those -- Rivers, The Meadows and Lady Luck -- are located just over the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border. Ohio, meanwhile, operates just four casinos -- two Horseshoe Casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati and two Hollywood Casinos in Columbus and Toledo.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2009 to allow table gaming in those four cities and create the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which regulates the facilities.
Despite the heavy competition and decline in revenues, Gibbons told the Lottery Commission each of the five facilities have "strong balance sheets" and recommended they all be relicensed. Of the five casinos, Charles Town Racing saw the sharpest revenue decline, earning about $456 million in 2013, down from $546 million in 2012. But, stockholder equity totals about $625 million.
Mardi Gras, located in Cross Lanes, had a total revenue of about $40 million for 2013, down from $44 million in 2012. Gibbons noted that facility has seen losses for the past four years.
Wheeling Island's revenue dropped from $140 million in 2012 to $115 million in 2013 and has stockholder equity of about $53 million. Mountaineer Park's revenues declined from $197 million to $175 million.
The Greenbrier saw a $1.4 million profit last year, Gibbons reported.
"They've been pretty consistent the past two years," Gibbons said. "They're revenues have been about $12.9 million in each of the last two years and they're generating probably about $1.4 million."
The Greenbrier are located farther from out-of-state competition, perhaps accounting for its consistency in the past couple of years. Despite multiple tries, Virginia, just a few miles from White Sulphur Springs, is one of only 10 states that doesn't allow some sort of table gaming.
In other Lottery Commission news:
Lottery revenues for May totaled $106.2 million, with $4.7 million coming from table games, $14.9 million coming from traditional sales, $53.5 million from racetracks and video lottery, $32.6 million from limited video lottery and $581,000 from historic resorts. The Commission expended $30.6 million for economic development, $2 million for general purpose, $500,000 for tourism, $3.1 million for seniors and another $109,000 to the veterans fund. As part of statutory distributions, local governments got $2.6 million, $2.9 went to general purpose, $6.5 million for the racing industry and $700,000 for tourism.
The Lottery Commission licensed five new retailers last month, but 47 current license holders are out of compliance. That's because they haven't turned in their application or fees for relicensure. They have until the end of the month to submit their applications or their licenses will be revoked.
The Legislature will study the distribution and appropriation of lottery proceeds, and a second study resolution will look at gaming and gaming distributions in general. House Concurrent Resolution 132 urges lawmakers to study casino-based electronic gambling to give West Virginia gamblers more choices and increase the competitiveness of lottery licenses.
The resolution has been introduced and referred to the House Rules Committee.
Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.
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