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It's time to say West Virginia has enough gambling outlets

June 01, 2002

Not content with hundreds of slot machines, the president of West Virginia's Mountaineer Racetrack says he'll begin lobbying for a law that would allow live versions of poker, blackjack and other games that patrons now play on video screens. It's a bad idea that would undermine the state's effort to give the state a more modern economy.

Ted Arneault says bringing the so-called table games to the state's race tracks will create hundreds of high-paying jobs and establish a more social atmosphere for gamblers who now come to play some of the 11,000 slot machines at the state's four horse tracks.

Arneault argues that by doing this, the state would get a lot of the business that now goes to Atlantic City, N.J. Arneault says many gamblers assume that it will happen eventually and often ask race track officials what the timetable for adding table games will be.

On the other side is House Speaker Bob Kiss, who said that the bill to allow slot machines at the race track was designed to preserve existing jobs, not create new ones. Kiss said that in rejecting casino gambling 10 years ago and table games for the Greenbrier resort in 2000, the legislators made it clear they don't want West Virginia known only as a destination for gambling.

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Approving video poker for sites away from the race tracks was necessary, we believed, because the state is so revenue-poor. Without them, state employees wouldn't have received raises and key programs wouldn't have been funded.

But there comes a point at which the state must either decide that it will be the Las Vegas of the East Coast, or go another way. Earlier this year, The Herald-Mail looked at what that "other way" might be.

Called "A Vision Shared," it's a plan rolled out by the West Virginia Roundtable to enhance the state's economic competitiveness. The key to it is an emphasis on education, not only at the high-school level, but on life-long learning and the continuous retraining of workers.

Are casino jobs what will take West Virginia to the next level? We don't believe so. It's time to put the emphasis on something better.

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