Chafin then suggested an amendment that would have reduced table game fees at Wheeling Island alone. He retracted his amendment after a short recess when finance committee members met briefly in Prezioso's office.
John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association, said Wheeling Island is the only racetrack that currently cannot pay its fees, but that others aren't far behind.
He said Wheeling Island is projected to make $8 million in fiscal year 2013, which ends in June. Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes is expected to bring in $15 million in revenue, while Mountaineer Racetrack in the Northern Panhandle is expected to make $20 million.
The casino and racetrack in Charles Town is the exception to the rule. It is projected to make $100 million in revenue this fiscal year.
"Are we going to penalize Charles Town. . .just because they have been successful?" Cavicini said of Chafin's proposed amendment.
Wheeling mayor Andy McKenzie urged lawmakers to reduce the fees. He said the city would lose $750,000 in revenue if the Wheeling Island racetrack does not renew its table game license, but the overall financial impact would likely be much greater.
McKenzie said the track probably would lay off between 150 and 200 employees once the table games shut down, and property taxes for the racetrack also would eventually fall.
"It's a chain reaction of events," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, asked if lawmakers could cut fees at Wheeling Island but keep all other license fees the same. Lawyers for the Senate Finance Committee said that could open the state up for a legal challenge, as other states could argue they received unequal treatment under the law.
Speaking during the evening floor session Tuesday, Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, asked why the Legislature has not proposed similar bills to help other struggling state businesses.
He suggested the state make racetracks and casinos ride out their current financial struggles.
"This was the bet they made because they felt this was the business they can make it in," he said.
Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, complained about the last-minute nature of Prezioso's amendment. He said he did not even know S.B. 615 would be discussed at the Finance Committee meeting.
Blair also criticized the proposed study of the state gaming industry. He said there's not much more racetracks can do to compete with their out-of-state competition.
"What? We're going to put strip clubs in to draw the people in? Are we going to serve marijuana?" he said.
Blair said he is not opposed to gambling-he noted that he got married in Las Vegas-but suggested racetracks should operate like all other businesses, saving up money in the good times to prepare for the bad times.
Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.har...@ dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.