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Wheeling Island to renew table games license

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Management of Wheeling Island Casino announced Monday they will pay $2.5 million to renew the facility's annual license with the Lottery Commission to continue to operate table games, effective July 1.

"The decision to renew for one year has come despite drastic declines in revenue and the serious problem the casino still faces to make table games a profitable piece of our business," Osi Imomoh, new president and general manager of Wheeling Island, said in a news release.

The hardest hit of the state's four racetrack casinos by out-of-state competition in the Pittsburgh area and in Ohio, Wheeling Island officials had considered dropping table games rather than pay the $2.5 million license fee.

Legislation to lower the fee this year to $1.5 million passed the Senate but was never taken up in House Judiciary Committee.

"While we are disappointed the state did not make the table games taxes more competitive this year, we are pleased with the support we received from the public and that the issue gained attention in the media," Imomoh said. "We are confident that legislative leaders recognize this is a serious problem, and it is our hope that the issue will be studied in depth prior to the next legislative session."

In addition to the $2.5 million license fee, which goes to the Bureau of Senior Services to fund in-home care programs, West Virginia imposes a 35 percent tax on table game revenues, compared to 16 percent in Pennsylvania, and 33 percent in Ohio with no annual licensing fee.

"I have looked at the numbers, and they are not positive," Imomoh said. "Right now, table games are not a profitable part of our business, but we felt that giving ourselves and the Legislature another year to work through the issues is the right thing to do for our 650 casino associates and the economy of West Virginia."

Wheeling Island also has a request to the Lottery Commission to authorize use of electronic table games at the casino. The electronic games are less labor intensive, with one dealer able to oversee a table with up to 12 players, twice the number of conventional table games.

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


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