Protect W.Va. Credit Rating

An editorial from The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register:

WHEELING, W.Va. — For several years while West Virginia held a monopoly on some types of gambling in this region, state legislators could smile and watch the money roll in. It allowed the state to do many good things that otherwise would not have been possible.

But competition from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, all of which have casinos of their own now, has changed that. Now, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislators are going to have to set priorities for the dwindling pot of cash from gambling.

On Tuesday, the Standard and Poor’s financial rating service downgraded its outlook for bonds issued by the state School Building Authority. SBA bonds retain a AAA rating, but it now is followed by a negative rather than a positive. S&P officials said the AAA rating could be in danger within the next two years.

S&P had a simple reason for the change: Revenue from state-sanctioned gambling in West Virginia continues to decrease. Gambling money is the source of $19 million a year the SBA uses to make payments on bonds it issues. Clearly, S&P analysts worry that continuing declines in gambling revenue will affect the SBA’s ability to make those payments.

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