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Video Poker Industry Causes Pain To West Virginia. 2005-09-06
West Virginia has been debating over the last few years on how to handle the 4-year-old argument with the video poker industry. Some club owners, frustrated with the argument are now having something to be frustrated about now too. Lawmakers are trying to put this to rest, by putting the video poker industry to rest.
Dan Guida, president of the West Virginia Limited Video Lottery Retailers Association, says the problems are known. He additionally added that the industry boosted when all the clubs were built. Of course they were mostly built at the same time, and nearby one another. Some bars, due to this fact, have little money to payout when there are winning tickets. So now nonprofit fraternal clubs have formed together to get the excess of those leftover machines.
Guida says he and other retailers suspect that out-of-state investors and machine-leasing companies are creeping around the law. Lottery Commission officials say they are unaware of any fowl play. John Melton, the commission's lawyer, said he wouldnít be surprised if that was the case.
18% of clubs own their own machines, while the other 82% lease. This is what the commission officials found and stated as fact. Guida believe stricter enforcement of existing laws and Lottery Commission rules could solve a majority of the problems. Though some experts say it might be time for West Virginia to re-examine its laws.
Lottery Director John Musgrave did not respond to any questions made last week by The Associated Press. Public records indicate there is enforcement of the law in some areas. During the fiscal year, that ended June 30, the commission issued 209 citations. This was up from 151 found the year before. Clubs paid a total of $24,751 in fines this year, as compared to $16,410 last year.
The most common offenses, this past year, was that the surveillance equipment was out of compliance as well as illegal advertising. Some of these types of fines were tiny, around $20, imposed for failing to pay winning tickets immediately and in full. Guida, who owns seven clubs in the Northern Panhandle, wants more to be done on this subject, so that clubs arenít shut down without warning.
The 2001 Limited Video Lottery Act allowed up to 9,000 machines in adult-only settings around the state, and gave the Lottery the power to license and regulates these clubs. West Virginia is one of a few states, including Oregon and South Dakota, where video poker machines are owned by the Lottery Commission. In places like Nevada, Louisiana and Montana, responsibility for slots is up to the gaming commission. This means that this state doesnít have an expert in the field to change the law.
House Speaker Bob Kiss says there have been no discussions about replacing the Lottery Commission on this issue. The issue is not significant investment, so this state isnít concerned about it. There is however a deputy director with 20 full time inspectors trying to change how the state is running things. Lottery Spokeswomen Libby White says even a separate staff of six has the duty of licensing. So they are trying, even without the experience seen in other states.
(By Andrea)