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Senate bill to reduce WV casino fees appears dead

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said he removed Senate Bill 615 from the committee's April 5 meeting agenda because he had received numerous calls from delegates saying they couldn't support the bill.

"Since having placed it on the agenda this morning, I've received a lot of calls, and concerns have been expressed to me by fellow delegates about their opposition to it," Miley said after the committee meeting. "So until I have an opportunity to find out the precise nature of their opposition, I had to pull it off the agenda."

Miley said he would work to find out why exactly delegates are opposed to the bill that could help the state's gaming centers, particularly the Wheeling Island Casino.

Thanks in part to competition from other states, Wheeling Island has seen a loss in revenues. Casino officials said they're not sure how the resort can maintain table games unless the bill passes. The bill would decrease fees paid to the state by $1 million.  The bill was sponsored by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, who originally wanted fees reduced only for Wheeling Island. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week amended the bill to include the state's three other casinos.

Miley said he wants to see the bill pass to help ward off job losses in northern West Virginia should Wheeling Island have to close.

"What I need to find out is whether there is support from a majority of members for the bill to pass," Miley said.

But time is running out. The session closes April 13 and the bill, if revived, also would have to go through the House Finance Committee.

"I really owe it to Senate President Kessler to take a close look at this bill and see what may pass and what may or may not be supported by the other members," Miley said. "This affects his area. There could be significant job loss for his area. Senate President Kessler has been very accommodating to work with across the chambers, so I do think we want to try to explore whatever we can to help his constituents, but I can't make any promises about how the rest of the delegates feel about it."