A West Virginia lawmaker says he will soon introduce legislation to allow the state’s full-scale commercial casinos to build smaller satellite gaming properties.
State Sen. Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha) tells the Charleston Gazette-Mail that satellite casinos — or boutique gaming venues that operate tethered to a full-scale casino — could help revitalize struggling brick-and-mortar shopping centers.
He says one prime example is the former Macy’s at the Charleston Town Center. The department store space has sat vacant since 2019. Macy’s had occupied the anchor spot for 36 years. Nelson believes the two-story store would be an ideal setting for a satellite casino.
Why not put out an option that would allow for a destination in downtown Charleston?” Nelson asked. “It would provide an opportunity to put something in the mall.”
It isn’t the first time Nelson has proposed such an expansion of gaming. In 2019, a similar bill died in the Senate Finance Committee by a single vote.
Nelson says his satellite casino bill will be introduced in the next Senate legislative session. That’s scheduled to commence on January 12, 2022.
If the legislation does pass, West Virginia residents would need to authorize the new gaming properties through a ballot vote.
Satellites to Remain Close
Nelson says his gaming bill will require that West Virginia casinos only build a satellite gaming location within their home country. The state has 55 counties.
As for the vacant Macy’s at the Charleston Town Center, that means only the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort would qualify to place a casino at the shopping mall. The casino owned and operated by Delaware North — a New York-based gaming and hospitality conglomerate — is roughly 10 air miles from the shopping center.
West Virginia is home to three other full-scale casinos.
Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming operates Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Jefferson County. The resort is owned by Penn’s real estate investment trust (REIT) Gaming and Leisure Properties.
Mountaineer Casino in Hancock County is owned by Caesars’ REIT VICI Properties, and operated by Colorado-based Century Casinos. Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino in Ohio County is also owned and operated by Delaware North.
A fifth casino — located at The Greenbrier resort in Greenbrier County — wouldn’t qualify for a satellite. The gaming space inside the historic property is only accessible to resort guests and members, as well as event and convention attendees when at least 400 guestrooms are booked at the resort.
Satellite casinos have given new life to aging malls in West Virginia’s neighboring Pennsylvania. Lawmakers there approved of so-called “mini casinos” through the state’s far-reaching expansion of gambling in 2017.
Five satellite casinos were successfully auctioned.
Live! Casino Pittsburgh opened outside the city at the Westmoreland Mall last November. The 50,000-square-foot two-story casino features 750 slot machines, 30 table games, and sportsbook. The gaming destination took the space of what was a Bon-Ton department store.
Tomorrow, Penn National Gaming will open Hollywood Casino York at the York Galleria Mall. The casino occupies what was previously a Sears store.
Another satellite casino in Pennsylvania is planned for a former Macy’s at the Nittany Mall near Penn State University. That project is being developed by Bally’s.