West Virginia Satellite Casino Bill Dead, as Legislative Session Ends

Posted on: March 13, 2022, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: March 13, 2022, 11:08h.

Efforts in West Virginia to allow each of the state’s five commercial casinos to potentially build smaller satellite gaming venues is dead for 2022.

West Virginia casino gambling legislation
The Charleston Town Center exterior is seen in 2018. A legislative effort to possibly bring a casino to the West Virginia mall has died for 2022. (Image: Charleston Gazette-Mail)

Senate Bill 100 was introduced in February by state Senator Eric Nelson (R- Kanawha). The measure would have allowed casinos in West Virginia to seek secondary gaming locations. That’s so long as the targeted expansion site remained in the primary casino’s host county.

Nelson referenced how such an opportunity could help rejuvenate dying retail shopping centers like the Charleston Town Center in his home county. The majority of Nelson’s Senate colleagues agreed when the chamber passed SB100 by a 23-10 vote.

But after moving to the House of Delegates for further consideration, SB100 stalled. The gaming bill was directed to both the House Judiciary and Finance committees. Neither committee acted on the bill.

Session Concludes

The West Virginia Legislature concluded its 2022 session yesterday, March 12. With lawmakers exiting Charleston to return back to their constituents, some House lawmakers in the Finance and Judiciary could have to answer questions as to why there was no action on the satellite measure.

Satellite casinos, or mini-casinos, have been used in neighboring Pennsylvania to provide vacant malls with a jolt of economic activity. Former Sears and Bon-Ton department stores have been reutilized into casino spaces with slot machines, table games, and sports betting. Another Pennsylvania satellite is targeting a former Macy’s at the Nittany Mall in State College.

Senator Nelson was trying to represent his district. He was trying to develop a need for something to go in the mall that would tie into the convention center across the street and the hotels and restaurants in the area. I applaud him for it,” said John Cavacini, executive director of the West Virginia Gambling and Racing Association.

Nelson’s bill, if passed and signed into law by Governor Jim Justice (R), wouldn’t have actually authorized new casinos. Instead, SB100 would have only allowed each casino to seek a satellite gaming location. County voters would have had the ultimate say.

Each proposed satellite casino would have needed to be endorsed by a simple majority of county voters through a local ballot referendum.

Justice’s family could have potentially benefited from SB100. The billionaire’s business empire includes The Greenbrier, which operates a casino at the luxury resort in White Sulphur Springs.

Current Casinos Unimpacted

Nelson’s satellite casino bill would have calmed concerns that allowing licensed gaming venues to expand their operations to a new location could negatively affect the five existing casino properties.

“The total amount of locations a licensed racetrack may operate within a county is two locations: provided, that any licensed racetrack establishing a secondary location shall continue to operate its original facility and continue to maintain and offer amenities, accommodations, options, and services at such original facility,” SB100 stipulates.

The statute also mandated a revenue component if the satellite location was opened in a different municipality. It stated the host town of the full-scale casino must receive at least the same amount of local gaming tax revenue that it did in the year prior to the satellite opening.