Mountaineer Trying On-Site Phone Bets

CHESTER – Visitors to Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort can now bet on on thoroughbred races via smartphones and iPads.

“Mobile betting is the ultimate convenience, and we are very excited about it,” said Rosemary Williams, who serves as the corporate director of racing for Mountaineer’s parent company, MTR Gaming Group. “It’s the simplest thing in the world.”

One day after Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack announced it will pay the annual $2.5 million fee to the West Virginia Lottery Commission to keep table gambling through July 2014, the Northern Panhandle’s other casino is moving forward with technology officials hope will lure some younger customers. The process will allow gamblers to remain at slot machines or at poker and blackjack tables while placing bets on horse races.

“Younger folks spend more time on smartphones than older folks,” said Fred Buro, MTR vice president and chief marketing officer. “They use them less for talking and more for communicating with the entire world – across multiple online channels and networks. It stands to reason that if an industry hopes to appeal to a younger demographic, it needs to communicate with them on devices they prefer.”

When they are in specific areas of the Mountaineer facilities, customers can use their devices to bet on live or simulcast racing across the country. Transactions take place over a secure network, according to company leaders. Individuals must be 18 and are required to provide legal identification to sign up for an account.

“Our team saw an opportunity to provide a better service and user experience for our customers,” said Joseph L. Billhimer, acting president and chief executive officer of MTR. “More customers have smartphones these days, and this technology allows us to provide those people with a simple and secure way to place a bet without them having to leave their seats.”

MTR officials said they also have the mobile betting platform in place at Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino near Erie, Pa.

As MTR looks for ways to make its business more appealing, the company continues to see more of its market share moving to the Ohio and Pennsylvania properties – which means less revenue for the state of West Virginia.

Demonstrating how neighboring states are taking gambling dollars from West Virginia, revenue at Mountaineer dropped 15.8 percent in the last three months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. However, parent company MTR saw company-wide revenue increase 12.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to 2011.

Revenue at Mountaineer fell from $55.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $47 million during the same period in 2012. Cash flow from slot machines at the Chester-based track dropped by $5.5 million during this time, while revenue from table gambling fell by $2.1 million.