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W.Va. tries to count 'gray' slots

February 10, 2001|By DAVE McMILLION

W.Va. tries to count 'gray' slots



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia State Police worked throughout the day Friday to count video poker machines in the state, but by day's end, the number of machines was not available.

Bill Case, spokesman for Gov. Bob Wise, said he would not be able to offer a final figure from the count Friday.

Case would not elaborate when asked whether the effort may have been bigger than estimated.

On Thursday, a state police official said he believed a statewide effort to count the machines was "do-able."

In Berkeley County, four troopers worked this week to count the machines in the county, Sgt. David Forman said Friday.Uniformed officers could not enter private clubs because they are not allowed to do so unless there is a disturbance inside, Forman said. Undercover officers with the department's Bureau of Criminal Investigation were used to count the club machines, Forman said.

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Forman said local troopers should be close to finalizing their count.

He said troopers found up to a dozen machines at some establishments.

"I don't think there was any more than that," Forman said.

Jefferson County state police officials could not be reached for comment.

Wise wants the information for a bill he is drafting for the upcoming session of the Legislature.

Video poker machines are legal for entertainment, but payouts for winning games are illegal. Wise has pledged to enforce that payout ban if the Legislature doesn't pass a bill to tax and regulate the machines.

A 1999 survey overseen by the state's Alcohol Beverage Control Commission estimated there were 9,800 poker machines in West Virginia.

"We're convinced there are a lot more than 9,000, if we ever find out where they all are," Case said.

People have complained to state officials about the number of machines doubling and tripling at some establishments, Case said. People are concerned about teenagers having access to the machines, and want something done about the proliferation of the games, he said.

When asked whether those same people would be concerned about Wise's plan to regulate the machines, Case said yes.

"There's going to be some of that, sure. But the policy of inaction is what's gotten us here today," he said.

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