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West Virginia Casinos Aren’t Worried — Yet

November 5, 2009

WHEELING - Officials at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort and at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack said they don't expect any roulette wheels to spin at proposed Ohio casinos for at least two years.

As such, they will let their bets ride on plans to attract gamblers from the Columbus and Cleveland markets.

Ohio voters on Tuesday approved Issue 3, which will allow one casino to be built in each of the following cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. The passage comes just as West Virginia's casino operators strive to compete against slot machines in nearby Pennsylvania and to make up for the loss of patronage by attracting gamblers from Ohio.

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Officials at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack say the passage of Issue 3 in Ohio doesn’t have them concerned.

"Overall, it's too early to speculate on the market impact - based on the fact there is opposition and proposed amendments that could come into play," said Kim Florence, spokeswoman at the Wheeling Island facility. "We do feel in Ohio it will take a couple of years to get up and running. During that time, we will continue to focus on our business plans and focus on the Ohio market - as we've always intended to do.

"Pennsylvania and Ohio are our core audiences, and we will take advantage of any time we might have as this unfolds," she added. "We will continue to monitor efforts to build casinos in Ohio. As this unfolds, we will plan accordingly."

The MTR Gaming Group, owner of Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester, had actively campaigned against Issue 3. The company also owns Scioto Downs in Columbus and wishes to have casino-style gambling there.

Tamara Pettit, spokeswoman for Mountaineer, said Wednesday that MTR will continue to look at ways to develop Scioto Downs.

"We already have dealt with the introduction of competition as The Meadows has gone online with slots," she said. "The passage of Issue 3 will add to an already competitive market."

Pettit said Mountaineer "will continue to offer the most diverse entertainment experience" with the addition of shows and other offerings at the track.

"In recent months, we have been focused on customer experience," she noted.

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