Plan for Casino Revenue to Drop

If you had any doubts legalized gambling in Ohio and Pennsylvania is having a devastating effect on West Virginia casinos, consider the state Lottery Commission’s revenue report for August.

This week the commission reported revenues decreased again during August. But for the relatively new Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, the month’s numbers would be a train wreck.

Hollywood pumped $13.3 million into state coffers last month. Meanwhile, casinos in Wheeling, Chester, Cross Lanes and at The Greenbrier contributed just $4.2 million combined.

Many of the Charles Town casino’s customers come from Virginia, which has no legalized casino or video slot machine gambling, and Maryland, which is just now getting into the “game.”

But the Wheeling and Chester facilities, once the workhorses of legalized gambling in West Virginia, have faced competition from Pennsylvania and Ohio. That is bad enough, but there is worse to come: A new casino in Columbus, ironically enough also named Hollywood, is to open in early October.

While there seems to be little likelihood of legalized casinos in Virginia, Maryland is a different story. There, video slot machines already are permitted and voters are set to decide whether to allow full-scale table gambling. That could cut into West Virginia revenue from Charles Town.

Though it has become increasingly clear video and table gambling casinos are not going to provide anywhere near the revenue they have in the past, West Virginia state leaders seem to have no plan to deal with the massive budget hole that will result.

We have warned for several years that gambling revenue was not a safe bet in the long run. It certainly was a good run while it lasted – but a strategy for replacing some revenue from gambling needs to be developed. It is an issue state legislators should address soon.