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Martinsburg proposes limits on video lottery businesses

November 03, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A draft ordinance being considered by Martinsburg City Council members would prohibit limited video lottery establishments from opening in the downtown business district or within 1,000 feet of a school, church, park, playground or other gaming establishment.

Currently, 82 video lottery establishments are in Berkeley County, according to the West Virginia Lottery's Web site. The number is not broken down to include how many are within the city of Martinsburg, and Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said he does not know how many businesses in the city have the machines, which are similar to slot machines.

While meeting as a committee Wednesday, City Council members decided to continue discussing the ordinance during a formal City Council meeting. It has not yet been approved or put into effect.

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The ordinance attempts to dictate where new video lottery establishments can open.

"The following requirements are designed to prevent the clustering of such uses which may negatively impact the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties and to minimize adverse effects," the ordinance states.

"Special regulation of these uses is necessary to insure that adverse effects will not contribute to the blighting or downgrading of the surrounding neighborhood, or endanger the health, safety, morals or welfare of the City of Martinsburg," the ordinance states.

If approved, the ordinance would prohibit video lottery establishments from opening on Queen Street, from Stephen Street to Exchange Place, or on Race Street, Martin Street, Burke Street, King Street, John Street and Stephen Street, between Maple Avenue and Spring Street.

Exemptions



Existing establishments would be "grandfathered," meaning they would not be subject to the terms of the ordinance. Also, the ordinance would not apply to tax-exempt fraternal or veterans organizations, or to businesses that only sell lottery tickets.

Businesses would be grandfathered if sold, provided the new owner obtained within 12 months all the necessary permits and licenses - including a license to sell alcohol - that are needed to have limited video lottery machines.

City Councilman Richard Yauger said 12 months seemed too generous, and that a business that contains video lottery machines could change hands three or four times within a year.

"It doesn't have to be 12 months," replied Andy Blake, an attorney representing City Council.

A law passed by the state Legislature in 1999 declared that 9,000 video lottery machines can be placed throughout the state, but that individual businesses - with the exception of fraternal and veterans organizations - can have no more than five machines each.

Machines in Berkeley County are in bars, restaurants, fraternal and veterans clubs, night clubs and locally owned convenience-type stores.

Owners must pay $1,000 per machine per year to have them and the machines must be accessible only by adults, according to state law.

No limit exists on how many businesses can have the machines within a city's limits.

"There is considerable and growing local and statewide concern with many effects of limited video lottery establishments including, but not limited to: influence upon children; increased criminal activity associated with bars, night clubs, taverns and gambling establishments; and violent crimes against persons and property crimes," the draft ordinance states. "Such effects have a negative influence on property values and neighborhoods in the vicinity of the land use and it is a legitimate concern of the City Council to protect the property values of those in residential districts from encroaching commercial activity."

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