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Panel votes to reduce casinos’ share of ad grants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Tourism Commissioners Thursday repealed a long-standing preference that provided the state’s four racetrack casinos with the lion’s share of funding for tourism advertising matching grants.

With the change, the four casinos combined will be eligible for maximum matching grants totaling no more than $500,000 in the 2015-16 budget year – about half of the $965,000 in matching grants, called MAPP grants, that they received this year.

However, with the change, all tourism venues in the state will be able to apply for advertising matching grants of up to $125,000 each year – an amount that currently is capped at $50,000 for non-casino venues.

Commissioners argued that the change was necessary to help other state tourism venues that are being stymied by the $50,000 cap, a cap imposed last year as funding for the MAPP program has declined.

“If we don’t figure out a way to bring the $50,000 up…my personal opinion is, we’re blowing it,” said Commissioner Dave Arnold, with whitewater outfitter Adventures in the Gorge.

Commissioners approved the change after a lengthy, and at times, intense discussion Thursday afternoon…

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