A bill to introduce satellite casinos in West Virginia got a much-needed victory.
The bill, SB 62, would establish secondary locations for racetrack video lottery terminals, passed through the Senate by a 25-8 vote. Specifically, the bill’s supporters want to give the state racetracks the legal right to explore satellite casinos in other parts of the state.
Gambling expansion in West Virginia
Although clearing the Senate was a victory, the bill still has a long way to go. Furthermore, should the bill become law, it does not mean satellite casinos would automatically be introduced.
Bill sponsor Senator Eric Nelson said: “[Operators] would have to make an application, and then it would have to go before voters in that county.” Currently, West Virginia has four active racetracks.
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
- Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack
Nelson’s bill would allow each racetrack to open a smaller property only if such a casino is still within the larger racetrack’s host county.
Satellite casinos are not new
The idea of satellite casinos or “mini-casinos” is not new. Pennsylvania is one of the more notable states where mini-casinos have helped expand gambling. Most recently, a new $127 million satellite casino near Penn State University is actively working through legislative red tape to be built.
The debacle in Pennsylvania stems from a potential violation of bidding rules for a satellite casino. This does not mean casinos in West Virginia will go through the same legal battles. It does, however, highlight the difficulty in getting them up and running.
SB 62 now heads to the House, where it has not faired well. Nelson filed similar legislation in 2019 and 2022, with each bill dying the same way, at the hands of House lawmakers.
Despite this, Nelson appears confident that things might be different. The West Virginia legislative session runs through Mar. 11, meaning the clock is ticking.