WV Senate committee votes to lower casinos annual fees - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Senate committee votes to lower casinos annual fees

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Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, is keeping a close eye on Senate Bill 615.

He's the lone sponsor of the bill, which would change the way table game license renewal fees for the state's four racetracks are paid.

The current licensing fee for table games is $2.5 million, and the bill would drop that to $1.5 million per year.

The measure was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee before it was passed March 28, and its next stop is the Senate Finance Committee.

"The bill I introduced would've taken $3 million out of the purse fund, which is basically fed by table games and slot machines to build the fund," Kessler said.

Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, amended the bill in the judiciary committee so money for senior programs would be recovered by cutting that state subsidy that has helped casinos purchase new slot machines. The state currently pays for 50 percent of the costs of new slot machines, but the amended bill would require the state to only pay for 25 percent. Those fees currently are used to fund state senior programs.

"It was amended, as I understood, they took out of the fund we created a few years ago to help refurbish the machines to have a pool available on a 50 percent match so they could upgrade machines to stay competitive," Kessler said. "My goal is to not take any money from the senior programs, and I will not support nor pass, hopefully, any bill that would take money out of those desperately needed programs for seniors."

Kessler has said he is concerned that Wheeling Island Casino is struggling with its license renewal because of declining table game revenues. He said his original plan was to take $6 million from the purse fund, but his bill trimmed that back to $3 million.