Action to raise casino check-cashing limit delayed
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lottery Commissioners postponed action on a proposal to raise the limit on personal checks that can be cashed at the state's five casinos from the current $200 maximum to $10,000 after Commissioner Dave Lemmon objected to the increase.
"I'm definitely not for a $10,000 limit," Lemmon, a retired State Police superintendent, told the commission. "In my previous lifetime, I had to put up with people who'd lose their paycheck before they'd get home."
He said afterward that during his tenure, State Police officers would frequently have to respond to domestic violence calls, spurred by losses incurred in illegal backroom poker games.
"For a casino to cash unlimited checks is not a healthy situation," Lemmon said, noting pervasive statewide advertising for problem gamblers' help networks.
"They don't build these places on winners. They build them on losers," he added, referring to the casinos.
Casino lobbyists said an increase in the check-cashing limit is needed to compete with casinos in Pennsylvania, where the limit is $2,500, and in Ohio, which has no limits on the amounts of checks casinos may cash for patrons.
Currently, three of the racetrack casinos use on-site third-party check cashing services, which are not regulated by the Lottery, but impose a service charge that is unpopular with casino patrons, lobbyists said.
David Bradley, Lottery deputy director for table games, said the $10,000 limit would come into play only at the casino at The Greenbrier resort. He said the state's largest casino, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, has requested a $2,000 limit.
"The Greenbrier, obviously, we thought should be higher. That's how we came up with the $10,000 limit," Bradley said, adding, "I can tell you to date, no one has written a $10,000 check at any [casino] property."
Commissioners tabled the matter until the December meeting, in order to gather more information on check-cashing policies at other casinos.
Also Tuesday, Lottery finance director Jim Toney said Lottery revenues are continuing to outpace projections, but are starting to suffer ill effects from the new casinos in Ohio.
"We're getting into the battle," he said.
For October, video slots at the four racetrack casinos grossed $50.9 million, ahead of the projected $45.7 million, but down 18 percent from $62.05 million in October 2011.
Likewise, table games at the racetracks brought in $5.6 million, about $600,000 above projections, but down nearly $500,000 from last October.
Year-to-date, the tracks have grossed $250.93 million, $41 million above projections, but down nearly 11 percent from the $279.61 million in revenues at the same point in the 2011-12 budget year.
Overall, the Lottery grossed $105.09 million in October, $7 million above projections but more than $12 million below October 2011. Year-to-date, the Lottery has grossed $448.6 million, down 5 percent from $473.04 million in fiscal 2012.
The state's share of Lottery profits, year-to-date, is $194.4 million, down 4 percent from $202.66 million at the same point last year.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.