While two small communities in Hancock County look  at how to spend an additional $7,500.00 a week in revenue, the Hancock County Commission is now faced with figuring out how to trim $15,000.00 a week from its budget after a bill passed in the legislature changed the percentage cities and counties receive in net terminal income from Racetrack Video Lottery.

The Commissioners met with Del. Mark Zatezalo (R-2nd) one of the sponsors of the bill recently. According to the Commissioners Zatezalo said he did not realize that the County would lose revenue when he sponsored the bill. Commissioners said the Zatezalo said the Mountaineer came to him to sponsor the bill.

Commission President Jeff Davis said looking back over nearly 30 years of revenue , that racetrack video lottery revenue had changed Hancock County.

Davis is referring to the water/sewage and other much-needed improvements and projects the Commission was able to bring to Hancock County with the 2% revenue the county has received since 1994.   The enabling legislation to  allow a constitutional amendment on Racetrack Video Lottery Act was passed by the legislature in  the .1994 session.  Very quickly a local referendum election was scheduled in the four counties which had racetracks.   Hancock, Ohio and Kanawha County passed the referendum.  It was defeated in Jefferson County.. A subsequent election passed video lottery in Jefferson County.

While gambling was a contentious issue, dividing up the net terminal income proceeds was an intricate chess game.  With the racetrack taking the first 30 %, the other interests fought  for their share of the pie.  Horsemen assured the proceeds to benefit their purses and ensure a better racing product.   One percent went into pension fund for racetrack workers Money to promote tourism in those counties resulted in funding for the CVB.  Additional police protection would be necessary argued the cities and counties.  Mountaineer was the only track to be located in an unincorporated area, so the money went to the County Commission.  The other three tracks were located in Wheeling, Charles Town and Cross Lanes corporate limits so the funding went to those communities.

That all changed  in June, 1923 when a House Bill went into effect which knocked the County’s take back to 1 percent and gave New Cumberland and Chester 1%. Weirton, though incorporated and in Hancock, received nothing according to the legislation because a portion of its borders extend into Brooke County.

What’s the dollar impact on the County?

Last year Hancock County’s budget was  $11,828,649.99.  Racetrack video lottery accounted for $1,594,814.70.  This year the projected budget is $11,201,646.00 and with the video lottery revenue for the County cut in half revised numbers are expected in coming weeks.

Commissioners are expected to release a list of projects video lottery revenue has funded since 1994.

With New Cumberland and Chester, revenue has ranged from $8,996,65 to a low of $5, 936,00  per week in the month since the change went into effect.   While no official vote has been taken by the communities, it is anticipated that city streets and alleys along with dilapidated structures will top the list.

While crafting the dispersal of the revenue in 1994 was tedious with input from numerous sources, it appears that was not the case this year.  Both Chester and New Cumberland were informed of the change after the bill’s passage by Del. Pat McGeehan. The County Commission learned of the Bill;s passage after the fact.

(This is the first of a three-part series looking at the video lottery revenue; its history; and its impact)