Lottery draw tops forecast
State lottery revenue beat estimates by more than $48 million over the last quarter, but lottery officials say new out-of-state competition is beginning to take its toll.
Lottery finance director Jim Toney told members of the West Virginia Lottery Commission on Tuesday that September's $111.2 million in revenue was $17.2 million greater than forecasts for the month.
The surplus was driven by higher-than-expected video gambling revenue from the state's four racetrack casinos. The casinos brought in $56.8 million for the month, about 30 percent more than the $43.7 million lottery officials had expected.
The September surplus, combined with
prior months' positive results, helped
push quarterly revenue about 16 percent above expectations during July through September.
The overall $343.5 million in revenue for the quarter was about $48.1 million more than forecast.
Toney said the positive results were part of a trend the Lottery Commission has seen all year.
Finance officials had expected large drops in casino gambling - primarily at the Mountaineer and Wheeling Island casinos in the Northern Panhandle - due to the planned openings of new casinos in Ohio.
Those casinos were expected to open at the beginning of this year but were delayed. The lack of competition helped boost lottery revenues, and Toney said that trend continued over the last quarter.
"We're blessed at the lottery because our financial results for the month of September and for the quarter that ended in September continued to see the same positive revenue trends," Toney said.
However, he said that's not likely to continue.
New casinos opened in Cleveland and Toledo in May, although lottery officials said they wouldn't be the biggest competition for the Northern Panhandle casinos.
The biggest threat - the Hollywood Casino in Columbus - opened Oct. 8. Another horse track in Columbus also recently installed slot machines.
Now, officials from Mountaineer and Wheeling Island are telling lottery officials they are starting to see signs of impact.
"Columbus was their big draw," lottery director John Musgrave said. "They're very concerned, and of course we're concerned and we're trying to work with them to help any way we can."
The competition from Ohio isn't the only cloud looming over the Lottery Commission.
Pennsylvania recently cleared the way to open a new casino at the Nemacolon resort, about a 30-minute drive north of Morgantown.
Maryland voters are being asked to authorize table games in the November election. That could threaten revenues at the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town. It is West Virginia's biggest gambling operation by far.
A recent report financed by Maryland table games supporters found that legalizing table games there could divert $1.2 to $1.5 billion from Charles Town to Maryland.
Penn National Gaming, which owns the Charles Town casino, has spent close to $20 million on advertising to persuade voters to reject the Maryland table games measure.
West Virginia lottery officials also are hoping for a "no" vote.
"We're hoping that the folks over there will vote down that issue because it will have an impact on our facility in Charles Town," Musgrave said. "We do have concern."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5148.