CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Continuing a look at issues of interest in the final week of the 2013 legislative session:
Gambling: Not entirely surprising that a bill to cut the 2013 table games licensing fee for the four racetrack casinos from $2.5 million to $1.5 million (SB615) appears dead in the House of Delegates.
Opposition from Senate Republicans was adamant and unanimous. All nine Republicans voted against it in the 23-10 passage vote in the Senate, and Republicans account for 46 of 100 seats in the House.
The bill was primarily intended to aid Wheeling Island racetrack casino, hard hit by competitors in metro Pittsburgh and Columbus, and the House is effectively calling Wheeling Island's bluff that management will surrender the casino's table games license June 30 if the tax cut is not enacted.
Meanwhile, given that the state's five existing casinos are being hurt to varying degrees from competition in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, the bill to add a sixth casino at a rural resort development located at the struggling Highlands Golf Course, near Franklin in Pendleton County, seems a wild long shot (SB492).
Frankly, it might not have made it as far as it has without having super-lobbyist Nick Casey representing LGI Land, the Texas company that bought the golf resort at a bankruptcy auction in 2007.
One important piece of legislation regarding the state's casino industry could be the bill to study problems facing the gaming industry (SB656).
One disadvantage that immediately comes to mind: The state's racetrack casinos pay a 7 percent tax on video slots revenues to subsidize live racing at the tracks -- a tax the stand-alone casinos in the neighboring states don't pay.
Speaking of, Sam Burdette, president of the state Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association, stopped by to make the novel suggestion that the state racetrack casinos could counter the out-of-state competition by promoting, rather than marginalizing, live racing at the tracks.
Burdette, who last year got $60,458 from the state greyhound breeders' fund, noted that the local racetrack casino, Mardi Gras, has long since closed off its indoor grandstand for other uses, allowing only diners at one of the casino's restaurants a place to bet on the greyhounds in an indoor setting.
I suggested that was probably a marketing decision on the casino's part, not an intentional effort to marginalize greyhound racing, noting that racetrack video slots were legalized in the early 1990s as a way to keep the racetracks from going under.