Wheeling and Mountaineer Casinos Bring Long Sought Aid to Region
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West Virginia casinos continue to progress despite the numerous obstacles that have slowed their development. Officials at state tracks first asked for table games as a response to Pennsylvania installing video poker at several locations many months ago. The thought was that video poker might lure West Virginians over the state border, and table games might be the best chance to retain players and bring in new customers.
The state legislature debated the issue, and took over a year to resolve argument over taxation rates and licensing fees. The final settlement was a charge of $2.5 million for each license, plus 35% of net profits. Licensing money was to go to seniors health care, and taxes were to go to local counties and city governments.
After passing the legislature in March, the bill then went before the voters of the counties affected. Ohio County passed the issue by a huge margin on June 9th, and, after a few minor mishaps scheduling the election, Hancock County did the same in August.
Although tracks wanted to now start operations by Labor Day, the state informed them that regulators had to be present when tables began play, and regulators could not be trained and ready by that date. Poker finally began play in mid-October, and blackjack and roulette followed on December 20th.
So far, between Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino, and Racetrack and Mountaineer Racetrack, Casino, and Resort, over 1250 jobs have been created in the economically depressed state.
However, the next obstacle is looming. Ohio County is now examining whether to ban smoking at the facilities. Track officials estimate smokers comprise 70% of their customer base.
Seems that the benefits of installing casinos have already helped the region, despite several attempts to sabotage the process and negate the positive effects. Let’s hope smoking laws do not drag this economic boon down.