Town Center Mall takes aim at Nelson’s satellite gaming bill

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would establish a process for existing casinos to operate a satellite location in the same county where the casino is located.

The bill (SB 100) focuses on the Town Center Mall in downtown Charleston, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.

Eric Nelson

The mall’s struggles have been well documented.

“It’s a shame to be going through this facility right now. Quite a shame and it’s very unfortunate,” Nelson told fellow finance committee members on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the bill, an existing casino could seek to establish a satellite location in the same county. The move is expected to be approved by county voters in a referendum vote and approved by the state Lottery Commission.

Nelson said there would be at least four steps for the satellite operation to occur.

“It takes us (the legislature), then it takes the referendum. Third, it would have to have the Lottery approve it, but fourth, it would have to have some kind of tenant/landlord relationship for it to come into the mall,” Nelson said.

Mardi Gras Casino operates just off Interstate 64 in Nitro less than 20 miles from downtown Charleston.

Nelson said a satellite casino could help the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, which has undergone a nearly $200 million renovation in recent years.

John Cavacini

A satellite gaming bill was introduced and debated in the 2019 session. It was pushed by Wheeling Island casino owners who were concerned about the impact of major construction projects on the Interstate 70 on business. The bill passed the House, but failed to make it out of the Senate.

West Virginia Racing Association President John Cavacini said this year’s bill is not a gambling industry bill, but he personally thinks it would be a good idea for Charleston.

“I think if a casino was there (Town Center Mall), it would stimulate the development of some of the offices and businesses that remained there. It’s purely an economic issue,” Cavacini told the finance committee.

The bill was approved by voice vote and sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Georgia-based Hull Property Group bought Town Center Mall last year for $3 million.

The mall was the largest downtown mall located east of the Mississippi River when it opened in November 1983. The mall currently has only one flagship store.

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