he House of Delegates had agreed to the Senate's version of HB2718, but not without tweaking the bill further earlier in the day, which sent it back to the Senate once again.
According to procedure, the Senate has to take up the bill one more time. But while some believed that was the final step for passage, others thought the bill needed to go back to the House one more time before it could go to Governor Joe Manchin for his approval.
Regardless of how quickly that dilemma is cleared up, some legislators said the bill has been agreed to on both sides and should be headed to Manchin’s desk soon. “This is something we've worked toward the last several years, to allow citizens in those four counties to have the right to make that decision for themselves,” said Senator Andy McKenzie, who has been pushing the table games bill for a few years. “We've always said this is about a local option, and hopefully those residents will be able to decide their own destiny soon.”
HB2718 would allow residents in four counties with racetracks - Hancock, Ohio, Kanawha and Jefferson - to hold local elections on whether to allow casino-style table games at those tracks. John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association, said he was happy the House largely agreed with work the Senate did on the table games bill.
Racetracks, particularly those in the Northern Panhandle, are expecting their video lottery revenues to dip now that Pennsylvania is going online with its own slot machine industry.
The 2007 legislative session ends at midnight March 10, and both the gaming industry and legislative leadership had said they wanted the table games issue resolved before the final night.
When the House discussed Senate changes to HB2718 earlier Wednesday, many opponents of the gaming legislation picked the bill apart, keeping House Majority Leader Joe DeLong, and his staff attorneys busy discussing changes made by the Senate.
In the end, however, the House agreed to almost everything the Senate did. The only change the House wanted was to make certain that the us$ 5 maximum bet on slot machines at the tracks was not removed. The Senate was expected to agree to that change.