Lottery Revenue Sliding

CHARLESTON (AP) – West Virginia Lottery revenues are falling but Director John Musgrave says the decline is not as severe as the Lottery Commission expected.

Lottery revenues for April totaled about $109 million, down nearly 12 percent from the same month in 2012. Revenues for the fiscal year that ends June 30 totaled $1.1 billion so far, compared to $1.2 billion in the previous fiscal year.

Table gambling revenue at West Virginia’s four racetrack casinos totaled about $5 million in April, down 21 percent from the same month in 2012. Racetrack video lottery fell $12.4 million to $53.9 million.

There were small declines in revenue from limited video lottery at bars and clubs and from traditional scratch-off tickets and tickets for nightly drawings.

Still, lottery revenues are running about 15 percent ahead of estimates, Musgrave said.

Lottery officials overestimated competition from Ohio, where the openings of four new stand-alone casinos were delayed last year. Construction of a racetrack casino in Youngstown, Ohio, has not begun, Musgrave said.

The Youngstown casino is expected to draw more gamblers away from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.

The Lottery faces long-term concerns from competing casinos in Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Musgrave said.

“We don’t have a huge population, so it’s difficult to grow customers. You have to bring them in from across state borders, and that’s becoming more and more difficult,” he said

The Wheeling track unsuccessfully sought legislation during this year’s regular session to lower the annual table game license fee paid by each of the state’s racetrack casinos.

It threatened to drop table gambling unless lawmakers lowered the fee.

Musgrave said Wheeling track officials have asked the Lottery Commission to allow the casino to expand use of electronic table games. But they have not told him whether they will renew their table game license on July 1.

The Lottery Commission will discuss the Wheeling request at its meeting Friday. A decision may not be made until the June 14 meeting, he said.