CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A proposal to redirect millions of dollars from municipal and county coffers to the state has local government officials concerned.
Senate Bill 385 and its counterpart, House Bill 4266, requested by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, would redirect mandatory transfers of several forms of gambling revenue to plug holes in the state budget.
The proposal would affect proceeds from video lottery machines, racetracks and table games.
Due to the way state law divides gambling revenue, every incorporated municipality and county in the state would see a loss in income if the bill passes.
The counties and cities that have racetrack casinos will be hit especially hard over the next fiscal year if the bill is passed, according to state Lottery Commission estimates sent to Kanawha County officials. The Jefferson County Board of Education would also lose a significant amount of money.
Hancock, Jefferson, Kanawha and Ohio counties would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Of those, Jefferson County, home of the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races - the busiest casino in the state - stands to lose the most.
The Lottery Commission estimates Jefferson County's government would lose more than $555,000 under the governor's proposal. Charles Town would lose more than $163,000, and nearby Ranson would lose more than $137,000.
Jefferson County's Board of Education alone would lose nearly $386,000 under the plan.
The counties with the state's three other racetrack casinos would also take significant hits.
Hancock County, home of the Mountaineer Casino, would lose more than $431,000 with the city of Weirton taking about an $80,000 hit.
Ohio County, where Wheeling Island Casino is located, would lose more than $176,000, and Wheeling would be out more than $144,000.
Then there's Kanawha County, where the Mardi Gras Casino is located in Nitro.
Kanawha County is projected to lose more than $172,000, and the city of Nitro would lose more than $68,000.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said despite state estimates, he thinks the losses would be higher - as much as $250,000 for Kanawha County alone. He said even if the losses were in line with Lottery Commission projections, it would still be a major dent to local budgets.
"We're going to fight that," he said of the law. "The problem (the state has) got is the one they've created. Their way of balancing budgets is to take funds away from cities and counties that can least afford it."
Carper pointed out that Kanawha County residents have voted to allow video lottery and table games at the Tri-State Racetrack (now Mardi Gras Casino) in Nitro. Both elections came with the promise of revenue for the county.