Potential Developments in Appalachia
The West Virginia gambling parlors have been a significant source of revenue for the state on gambling win since day one and have not had much of a negative impact on the casinos. In the state, gaming locations designated as Limited Video Lottery, are allowed to have up to five machines for public locations and ten machines for non-profit organizations and private clubs. The problem is that the Limited Video Lottery catalog of games is, well, too limited.
Quite simply, the games are getting boring.
The problem is that the state individually authorizes individual games and paytables for the gaming cabinets that are present in these locations. Additionally, the West Virginia Lottery Commission also handles all of the other rules that go along with these Limited Video Lottery locations, and many of those are antiquated and somewhat silly.
For one thing, for some players, they are unable to bet enough per decision to be sufficiently entertained. While the casinos can have whatever machines, denominations and bet amounts they want to, the Limited Video Lottery games are restricted to pennies, nickels and quarters. Furthermore, the state has set it up so that the maximum bet allowed on any individual decision is only $2.00. While that beet size is enough to sufficiently entertain most players, some players avoid the parlors simply because they would like to bet more than that and have the opportunity to win more than such a limited bet would normally allow...except on an extreme long shot like 10/10 on Video Keno.
Furthermore, the Game King games that have been authorized by the state have a finite number, and that number is less than twenty. Parlors cannot do much to differentiate themselves from their competitors in terms of gaming offerings because, for the most part, they all offer the same games. While the parlors may do other things to differentiate themselves, such as the sort of snacks and beverages they are willing to give away for free, or beer prices, it would help if they were able to actually use gaming device differentiation to attract players.
Additionally, the games can be something of a pain to play because, despite max bets as high as $2.00, the highest denomination bill the machines will accept is a $20, again, pursuant to state law.
However, WV is now confronted with a bit of a conundrum, and that is that neighboring Pennsylvania is also considering a Limited Video Lottery that will have similar rules to those currently in West Virginia. The result is that the state is finally taking action, now that their hand has been forced, to improve upon the offerings.
The first major change that is being considered is to allow the machines to accept bills up to $100 in denomination, which makes complete sense so that bigger bettors do not have to load the machines with twenty after twenty. Additionally, the state has recently authorized cashout machines as opposed to all of the cash out tickets having to be taken to the individual running the parlor at that time. That’s been a positive development because the result is that the locations can now keep more money in their safes and are safer from the prospect of being robbed as there are not thousands of dollars in the cash drawer any longer.
The ticket machine can also be used as a bill breaker, of course, and that is necessary right now because the machines will only accept 20’s or lower for the time being.
Another development that the state is considering is increasing the maximum bet allowed to $5 which will attract a wider range of players for whom $2 is simply too small a bet and is not entertaining for them. Personally, other than an establishment that is worried about taking too big of a hit all at once within a short span of time (again, these places are very small) any location that has the cash reserves to be able to take a big hit should be able to differentiate itself by giving players the ability to bet more. It’s not like all of the locations are going to be forced to accept $5 bets whether they want to or not, they can stick with $2 maximums if they so choose.
For me, the most interesting development is the fact that the game catalog is expected to be expanded to include player banked progressives. What is excellent about that (other than the possibility of advantage play and many locations to check) is that it gives players more games to choose from. I am aware of some frequent visitors to parlors who have stopped going not because they are losing too much money, but because they are simply bored with the game choices.
Within the last couple of years, West Virginia did expand a little bit to allow certain new types of slot games on different multi-game devices to be added. These are the, ‘Winner’s Choice,’ machines that contain games such as Siberian Storm, Secrets of the Forest and Three Kings, among others, but none of those games are permitted to have player-banked progressives. There are games on that unit that are capable of having player banked progressives programed into them, they are just not allowed to have them.
Other states with Limited Video Lottery locations, such as Montana, have had a more diverse selection of games and player banked progressives for a long time, so it is time The Mountain State caught up. The only thing that WV has done right in comparison is that they cap jackpots at $25,000 whereas Montana has a $500 cap.
These developments, if they go through, will re energize the parlors and cause them to reignite the interest of some players they have lost. Further, the presence of games that players are used to seeing in the state’s casinos will also make the parlors more attractive to gamblers who otherwise avoid them.
In the meantime, Pennsylvania is seriously considering allowing the bars within the state to partake in a Limited Video Lottery. The only thing that is surprising is that they had not done that already considering that the State of West Virginia has had them forever and the benefits are pretty clear.
According to the Lottery Report for 2016, the Limited Video Lottery for West Virginia alone brought in $360,814,000 in tax revenues, which is $195.03 per resident of the state based on a population of about 1.85 million (2014).
I think it’s time for Pennsylvania to get on that and West Virginia to quickly do anything they can to improve those numbers, which have actually fallen over the last few years.