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W.Va. Lottery tops $1B for 10th year in a row

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the 10th consecutive year, total West Virginia Lottery revenues have topped the $1 billion mark -- this time, with three months still go to in the state's budget year.

Lottery Director John Musgrave said Thursday he hopes the winning streak continues, despite tough competition from casinos in Western Pennsylvania and Maryland, and more coming from Ohio.

As of March 31, the Lottery had total revenues of $1.09 billion, up $51 million from the same point in 2010-11 and about $20 million above projections.

Musgrave said the Lottery established those projections assuming that new Ohio casinos would have opened by now, including a facility near Cleveland that will draw business from the Mountaineer and Wheeling Island casinos.

However, the Cleveland casino won't open until late spring or early summer, giving the Northern Panhandle casinos a reprieve, he said.

Still, "we know it's coming, and it will have the impact that we've been saying for quite some time," Musgrave said.

Next month, the Lottery Commission will tour and hold its monthly meetings at the Northern Panhandle facilities, in part to view upgrades and improvements each casino operation has made to its facilities in hopes of remaining competitive.

"We think they're putting themselves in a position where they can compete," Musgrave said.

Maryland also has legalized slots-only casinos. Its largest, a 3,200-machine facility in Anne Arundel, near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, is scheduled to open in June.

For March, video lottery at West Virginia's four racetrack casinos brought in $73.8 million, up $10 million from March 2011. Table games produced another $7.2 million, up $828,000.

Limited video lottery, operating in more than 1,500 bars and clubs around the state, brought in $39.1 million for the month, up $1.9 million from March 2011.

Meanwhile, bolstered by a record $5.47 million of ticket sales for the $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, online ticket sales for March jumped 39 percent from March 2011.

Online sales are a comparatively small revenue source, though, bringing in $11.3 million for the month.

Sales for the other category of "traditional" lottery -- instant scratch-off tickets -- were down slightly for March, at $10.1 million.

For the month, the state's share of Lottery profits was $63.69 million, up $7.28 million over March 2011. Year-to-date, the state's share of Lottery revenues is $481.56 million, up $26.7 million from 2010-11.

Also Thursday, the Lottery Commission:

| Authorized Musgrave to execute lease agreements with five other state agencies that will move into the Lottery's headquarters building, City Center West.

Beginning with the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, which will move in by Monday, the state Racing Commission, Division of Banking, Municipal Bond Commission and the Real Estate Division will occupy five floors of the 13-story office tower.

Musgrave said the moves, which will leave the building fully occupied, should be complete by July. Lottery offices are on six floors of the tower, while Mountain State Blue Cross/Blue Shield leases two floors of office space.

| Postponed action on approval of an electronic table game at Mardi Gras Casino, in order to review the game at a later date in the Lottery's testing labs.

Mardi Gras wants to offer electronic blackjack, which features live dealers, but displays the players' cards and wagers digitally on video screens.

Last year, the Lottery Commission authorized the four racetrack casinos to offer electronic roulette, which uses a traditional roulette wheel, but allows players to place their wagers using electronic touch-screens.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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