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First count of W.Va. gray machines released

March 11, 2001

First count of W.Va. gray machines released



A count of so-called "gray machines" in West Virginia shows there are 498 of the gambling machines in Berkeley County, according to Gov. Bob Wise's office. The count is continuing, officials said.

In Jefferson County, 156 have been counted and in Morgan County, there are 92, according to the count.

Statewide, 12,118 of the machines have been found, according to the governor's office.

Wise had asked the West Virginia State Police to count the number of video-poker machines in the state as part of his plan to restrict and regulate the games.

But during a visit to James Rumsey Technical Institute last month, Wise said the machines could not be counted.

Wise said part of the problem is uniformed officers cannot go into private clubs unless they are called to the establishments for a disturbance.

Wise officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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In a press release Friday, Wise said the recent numbers are only part of the total. Wise said he wanted to report the partial count to "dramatize the rapid growth of this unregulated gambling industry."

A count of the machines conducted in 1999 estimated there were 9,000 machines in the state, although Wise now says the number could be between 20,000 and 30,000.

The poker machines are legal as entertainment. It is illegal to win cash payouts from the machines, although it happens frequently.

In his recent State of the State address, Wise proposed taxing the poker machines, which he estimated will generate $22 million. Wise wants to use $12.5 million of the money to fund the PROMISE Scholarship program, which would offer college tuition to high-achieving students.

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