CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Lottery revenues have plunged $233 million from the peak year of 2007, and are expected to continue to decline in the face of growing competition from Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Lottery Director John Musgrave said Monday.
"We're conservative in our estimates, but you can see we expect another impact from Ohio when they get all their casinos operating," he told the Senate Finance Committee.
In 2007, the two Northern Panhandle racetrack-casinos, Mountaineer and Wheeling Island, began losing customers to two new casinos located in and near Pittsburgh.
The hit got worse last fall, when newly legalized casinos began opening in Ohio, including two facilities in Columbus.
"Columbus has got a casino right in downtown, and you've got a racetrack outside of Columbus," he said.
In addition to the fourth major casino that opened last week in Cincinnati, six additional racetrack-casinos are slated to open in Ohio, he said.
"The competition is still building over there," Musgrave said.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said it is clear the panhandle casinos are hemmed in geographically, with competitors on both sides.
"They're in a pinch. The only option is to try to increase in West Virginia," he said.
However, Musgrave noted that only about 13 percent of patrons at Wheeling Island and 3 percent at Mountaineer are from West Virginia.
"If we relied on West Virginia players, we wouldn't have many people coming," he said.