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W.Va. tourism panel debates advertising grants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the state Tourism Commission Wednesday debated ways to more equitably distribute ever-shrinking state funds for advertising matching grants – possibly including eliminating preferences for the state’s four racetrack casinos.

The four casinos currently get about half of all funds available for the matching grants, called MAPP grants. That’s carryover from the days when the program was funded from a 1.375 percent share of racetrack video lottery profits, and each racetrack casino was assured of getting at least a 25 percent share of its contribution to those video slots revenues back in advertising matching grants.

In 2014, the Legislature changed MAPP funding from a percentage of video slots profits to an appropriation in the state budget, and in the current budget year, provided about $1.9 million for MAPP grants, $965,000 of which has gone to the racetrack casinos.

For the upcoming 2015-16 budget year, the MAPP appropriation will shrink to $1.4 million, prompting discussion on changing the way the grants are allocated.

“As you can tell by the numbers, we have a dilemma we need to address,” said Sharon Rowe, chairwoman of the Tourism Commission’s MAPP committee.

Casino representatives, however, were adamantly opposed to further restricting their matching grants…

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