CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state's four racetrack casinos want the Legislature to cut taxes on table games and licensing fees to shore up their finances and help them cope with out-of-state competition.
A bill introduced in the state Senate Wednesday also would let the casinos determine how many greyhound races they run each year.
The West Virginia Racing Association is pushing the bill. Association President John Cavacini said the bill is designed to help the state's casinos -- the Wheeling Island casino in particular.
"This is about keeping people employed and generating revenue for the state of West Virginia," Cavacini said.
The proposed legislation would cut the state's tax on table game revenue from 35 to 25 percent. It also would reduce the annual license fees casinos pay from $2.5 million to $1 million.
Casinos would use the savings to make needed improvements to their facilities and the amenities they offer, he said.
West Virginia used to have a regional monopoly on racetrack casinos.
When the state passed legislation legalizing racetrack slots in 1994, none of the bordering states had casino operations.
Now Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland have hopped into gambling, with both table games and slots.
Cavacini said the new out-of-state competition, along with the state's legalization of limited video lottery in 2001, has steadily eaten away at racetrack casino revenue.
About three years ago, Wheeling Island was generating about $32 million a year from table games. That has dwindled to about $8 million.
"They've basically had a reduction of 75 percent of their table games business," Cavacini said
Earlier this week, Wheeling Island General Manager Jim Simms told the Wheeling Intelligencer that the casino was on track to lose $1 million on table games this year.
Cavacini said it's "highly questionable" that the casino will be able to pay the state its $2.5 million annual fee to obtain a table gaming license for next year.
"Our immediate goal is to keep Wheeling Island open and to keep the 150 jobs that are at risk from a table games standpoint," Cavacini said. "That's the immediate goal."
The four racetrack casinos took in $223.2 million in table game revenue during the 2012 fiscal year, according to state Lottery reports.
From that amount, the state collected $78.1 million through its 35 percent tax on the games. Had the rate been 25 percent, the revenue would have been $22.3 million less, or $55.8 million.
In January alone, Wheeling Island paid more than $234,000 in taxes on nearly $667,000 in table game revenue. It has been posting the least table game revenue of the four casinos.