Keep Casino, Track Healthy

Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack &?Resort at Chester remains a strong business, providing hundreds of jobs directly and indirectly and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. In addition, it is the source of millions more for state government.

But like virtually all businesses, the environment has changed since the racetrack and casino opened. And like virtually all businesses, Mountaineer needs to adapt.

Competitors in Pennsylvania and Ohio already have lured some gamblers away from Mountaineer. Revenue at the casino and track was down $22 million last year, in comparison with 2012, according to a state Lottery Commission audit.

Still, an accounting firm hired by the commission found Mountaineer, along with Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack and the state’s two other big gambling venues, is in “solid financial condition.”

But existing competition and a new racetrack scheduled to open near Youngstown, Ohio later this year mean Mountaineer needs to reduce expenses.

Company officials want to reduce the number of thoroughbred races they offer in order to do that.

Mountaineer currently has live racing five nights a week most months of the year. Last year, the track had 210 racing days, according to the state Racing Commission.

Commission members are being asked to allow Mountaineer to eliminate 14 live racing days per year – a reduction of slightly less than 7 percent.

But as we have reported, many in the racing community are upset about that. They voiced their opposition during a commission meeting this week in Weirton.

The business reality is that Mountaineer needs to trim expenses, however. A reduction in racing days would accomplish that. Commission members, who are scheduled to meet again Aug. 1 at the track, should allow the change.