03/29/2005 12:00AM

West Virginia passes casino bill


The West Virginia Senate passed a bill on Monday night that would permit racetracks in the state to offer craps, roulette, blackjack, and other casino-style table games in counties where voters approve the games.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 19-14, is headed to the House of Delegates. Under provisions of the bill, the state will collect 23.5 percent of the net revenue from the games, the remainder going to the tracks. Eight percent of the state's share will go to help fund purses at the tracks.

Supporters of the bill, which include a lobbying group formed by the state's four racetracks, contend that table games will help attract gamblers from neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, where slot machines were legalized last year. The Pennsylvania operations are expected to be up and running in 2006.

West Virginia has four racetracks, all of which operate slot machines. Its two Thoroughbred tracks are Charles Town Races and Slots and Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, and its two greyhound tracks are Wheeling Island Gaming and Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center.

Earlier this year, West Virginia legislators passed a bill providing for funding of the state's workers' compensation program by taking a portion of the horsemen's allotted share from slot-machine revenues. As a result, purses at Charles Town were cut by 20 percent.