West Virginia Losing Revenues to Neighboring States

by Jim Hall

West VirginiaWest Virginia has stiff competition in Pennsylvania and Ohio as new gaming venues emerge.

The gambling industry of the United States is quite competitive. If a state offers casino gambling, the gaming venues located in the state are competitive with each other as well as those venues that are located in nearby states. When new casinos are created, it is important to ensure the venue is located far enough away to not affect existing establishments. This is usually a hot topic of conversation when a new casino is to be created as existing operators do not want to lose revenues. West Virginia has offered gaming for about a decade now and is being greatly affected by the expansion efforts by neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania.

West Virginia Gaming

In 2007, the state of West Virginia decided to legalize table games. Slot revenues were at a peak with $440+ million being earned that year. The Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort along with the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack both wanted to be able to offer the table games. After beginning to offer such games as roulette, the state began to see revenues. However, by last year, the state was only able to earn $221 million in gross gaming revenues and this was table games and slots combined.

Casinos in Pennsylvania and Ohio are giving the gaming venues a run for their money. The newer venues have more options for players and seem to be more enticing. The Rivers Casino located in Pittsburgh earned just over $342 million for the 2016 Fiscal year and the Hollywood Casino Columbus earned just over $213 million.

When West Virginia gaming venues began to offer table games, such competition did not exist. Officials were worried at the time that eventually they would lose money or not earn as much when neighboring states began to enter the gaming industry. It seems these fears are coming true as the state has earned basically half of what they were pulling in when they first started providing table games.

Today’s Figures

The West Virginia Lottery Commission has released the 2016 figures for Wheeling Island and Mountaineer. For Wheeling Island, only $97.1 million was earned in gross gaming revenues produced by table games and slot machines for the fiscal year of 2016. This is an actual increase for the property when considering the two years prior but nothing like the $190 million earned in 2009 or years previous.

For Mountaineer, the casino saw $4 million in adjusted earnings from July 1st to the 30th of September. This is much less than the $6.4 million earned in the third quarter of 2015 and much less than what was earned in 2014, when the gaming venue brought in $9.1 million.

The most profitable gaming venue for the state now is the Hollywood Casino located in Charles Town. This venue is located near Washington D.C. and was able to earn $381.8 million for the fiscal year.

To try and help the gambling industry, casino officials have lobbied for tax cuts as well as incentives to try and see a turnaround with revenues. But their efforts have been unsuccessful. West Virginia Lottery Commission Spokesman Randy Burnside stated that gambling remains an important industry in West Virginia and in addition to slot games, racing and table games, the state has an instant lottery and other jackpot style games.

The expansion by neighboring states including Ohio and Pennsylvania have negatively affected overall sales for the past five years, but according to officials, this was projected. Commission officials do not seem particularly concerned with the losses of the gaming venues due to competition, citing the tracks have benefit from track capital reinvestment fund and are still first-class destination gaming facilities.