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Wheeling Island must wait to install electronic table games

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wheeling Island Casino management will probably have to wait until at least July 25 to get authorization from the state Lottery Commission to install electronic table games at the facility.

Commissioners decided Tuesday that they do not have sufficient information to proceed with requests from Wheeling Island to operate four types of electronic table games at the casino.

"We still have a lot of questions about what the mix will be, how the games will be played, things of that nature," Lottery Director John Musgrave said.

While the Lottery Commission will not act on the requests at its meeting on Friday, the agenda will include a presentation by Wheeling Island president and general manager Osi Imomoh explaining how the electronic games work, and how they will help the financially troubled racetrack-casino.

Imomoh announced Monday that Wheeling Island will renew its annual Lottery license to operate table games, at a cost of $2.5 million, even though the casino is losing money on the labor-intensive gaming. Of the four racetrack-casinos in the state, Wheeling Island has been hardest hit by competition from casinos in the Pittsburgh area and in Ohio.

Wheeling Island requested permission to use electronic table games as a way to reduce costs.

In 2011, the Lottery Commission approved a request from Hollywood Casino in Charles Town to offer "Rapid Roulette," which features a traditional roulette wheel and dealer, but with electronic consoles for players to place bets.

The electronic roulette can accommodate 12 players per table, double the capacity of a traditional roulette table, while the electronic wagering permits faster play.

Hollywood Casino management requested the game primarily as a way to provide an easy introduction for video slots players to table gaming.

The four electronic table games requested by Wheeling Island must be tested and approved by Gaming Laboratories International before the Lottery Commission may authorize their use, Musgrave said.

Additionally, the manufacturer of two of the electronic table games, Shufflemaster, is a licensed table games supplier, but needs to obtain a separate Lottery license as a video lottery distributor in order to supply the electronic table games to casinos in West Virginia.

"With the number of questions being raised, I'd rather be a bit more definitive before we approve it," Lottery chairman Ken Greear said of postponing Wheeling Island's requests to the July commission meeting.

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

 


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