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Senate passes four bills related to gambling

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Four separate bills dealing with legalized gambling operations in West Virginia -- given final approval in the State Senate on Wednesday -- will now be under close scrutiny in the House of Delegates with nine days remaining in the regular 2013 regular legislative session.

One of the measures is SB615, which would reduce the annual table games licensing fee for the coming year at the state's four race track/casinos -- Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack; Mardi Gras Casino and Resort at Cross Lanes; Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races; and Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino at Chester. Under the provisions of this bill, which now will be considered by the House of Delegates, the annual 2013 table games license fee would be reduced from $2.5 million per location to $1.5 million, a savings of $1 million to each location.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Thursday that he considers it "outrageous to give a tax break" to the state's four racetracks/gambling casinos.

"Everyone is having a hard time now in business," he said following Thursday's floor session in the House.

The House Majority Leader, Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, was not as critical of the Senate vote.

"We will have to take a look at the bill here in the House," he said. "The question is where will we find money to replace that $4 million (of lost state revenue)," he said.

The trio of other gaming bills passed by the Senate on Wednesday were:

A measure calling for a committee to study threats from competing casinos in border states and come up with recommended ways to help this state's gaming industry.

SB656 passed 33-1 with only Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, voting against it.

A proposal to create a sixth gambling casino for a "rural resort community," apparently providing for an expected development in Pendleton County (SB492) that passed by a 26-8 vote.

A two-pronged bill (SB478) that eliminates some technical requirements for the slot machines at the tracks and also allow employees of The Greenbrier resort to play the slot machines at that hotel's $80 million casino.

Former Gov. Gaston Caperton and Huntington native Franklin D. Cleckley, who was appointed to fill a vacancy as one of the five justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals by Caperton in 1994, were both honored in brief ceremonies in the House at the beginning of Thursday's floor session.

House members also heard an emotional eulogy for slain Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum delivered by Delegate Justin J. Marcum, D-Mingo. Marcum said Crum, who was fatally shot Wednesday in Williamson, had "finally realized his dream to become sheriff. Eugene would be proud of us because we will continue to fight this drug problem."