Evolution of racinos

First racetracks added slot machines. Now, they may be one step closer to becoming full-blown casinos.

From the LV Sun:

Advocates of adding casino table games to West Virginia’s four racetracks hope a statewide poll will drum up support among both the public and legislators.

“We’re trying to find out how much they realize how much the racetracks are contributing to the state,” said John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association.

Cavacini’s group has commissioned a Washington, D.C., firm to survey at least 600 state residents. With results expected next week, Cavacini hopes the poll will measure the mood for legislation to allow a vote on legalizing table games in the counties that host the tracks.

Aided by an industry study, Cavacini and other local option supporters argue that table games will blunt the loss of gamblers to Pennsylvania, which will soon debut the sort of video slot machines long popular at West Virginia’s tracks.

Among other questions, the poll asks residents whether they would vote for their legislators if they backed the local option bill. Favorable numbers might provide political cover for some but not many lawmakers, according to the sponsor of last year’s local option bill.

Largely because of video lottery slot machines, the four independently owned tracks together form a multibillion-dollar business. They employ 4,600 people and have provided $1.2 billion to state, county and local government coffers since 1994.

The racetrack association commissioned a different company to poll West Virginians on gambling and table games in June 2003. That survey found that only 8 percent considered stopping gambling from expanding a top priority. But more than half of those surveyed considered the tracks of little or no importance to the state’s economy.

That earlier poll asked about table games several different ways. It got its best response by hinging their legalization on a local election, with 56 percent supporting them under that condition.

Gov. Bob Wise said he would convene a special legislative session for the proposal if supporters could show him sufficient votes. But with such a session requiring at least three days, and Wise leaving office Jan. 17, tackling the topic during the regular session next month appears increasingly likely.

Las Vegas SUN: Support for table games at racetracks gauged

So West Virginians may have a whole new way to gamble soon. Who says that the New Year doesn’t bring new things along?

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