Advertisement

Foes of additional slots need additional evidence

September 01, 2000

Foes of additional slots need additional evidence



Faced with claims that their meeting wasn't properly advertised and the absence of three of their members, the West Virginia Lottery Comission on Friday delayed a decision on adding another 500 slot machines at the Charles Town race track. The delay should give those on both sides of the issue a chance to bolster their cases.

In August the track asked for permission to add the new machines, saying that although 500 machines were added last September, weekend patrons are sometimes standing "wall to wall" in lines waiting for machines to open up.

Proponents of the expansion include the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has seen higher purses since Jefferson County voters approved the so-called video lottery machines at the track back in 1996, and some elected officials.

Those officials note that in the current fiscal year alone, the county has received $800,000 as its 2 percent share of lottery revenues at the track. The cash has been used to fund paid ambulance service in the county and to pay for a new judicial complex and other programs.

Advertisement

On the minus side are those who link gambling to an increased crime rate in towns near the track. Mike Withem, a local pastor, said that according to state's Uniform Crime Report, the county's crime rate increased by 19.1 percent between 1997 and 1998. In nearby Ranson, Withem said, the increase was 21.6 percent.

What isn't clear is whether that increase is due to increased gambling, or because urban-style growth is bringing the problems of the big cities to Jefferson County.

If opponents are to prevail, they need to make that link, because the other side can point to gambling's role in saving horse racing and the many jobs associated with it and the open space needed to train and graze those thoroughbreds. If there's a significant link between slots and crimes, like embezzlement, or other sorts of social disruption, like bankruptcies, it should be easy to uncover before the commission's next meeting, set for Sept. 19 in Charleston.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|