MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The number of locations in Berkeley County where residents can try their luck playing state-licensed limited video lottery machines slightly decreased when new 10-year licenses went into effect last Friday.
There were 66 licensed "Limited Video Lottery" retail sites in operation at the beginning of the new fiscal year, down from 73 in June, according to data released Thursday by West Virginia Lottery's deputy marketing director Nikki Orcutt.
There was no change in Jefferson County, where 27 licensed retail locations were operating, and Morgan County only decreased by one — from nine to eight locations — according to Orcutt.
Earlier this year, West Virginia Lottery completed three rounds of bidding for licenses for 7,500 available machines, and more than 6,800 machines were operating with the new 10-year licenses as of Wednesday, Orcutt confirmed.
The number of terminal permits issued by the state to operators and retailers in Berkeley County decreased by 25 to 591, but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be fewer machines in operation, Orcutt explained.
The law allows operators with permits to place their machines in any licensed retail location across the state, Orcutt said. Retailers can have up to five machines at one location, and fraternal and veteran organizations can have up to 10.
Clarence B. "Butch" Pennington said Thursday that the cost of having five machines at each of three businesses he owns in Berkeley County has been considerable, but noted they continue to make money, even in the current economic conditions.
With the continued success, Pennington said they opted to bid again for the machines, and he said Thursday it was "business as usual" at his LVL locations in the Martinsburg area and Inwood.
The limited video lottery slot-like play attracts people from Virginia and Maryland, but Pennington said most players are from the immediate area who opt for a neighborhood-like setting where they can get personal, one-on-one service.
While some of the limited video lottery machines were installed at existing businesses after state lawmakers authorized them in 2001, other small-scale, gambling-focused operations have popped up across the state.
On Thursday, Bunker Hill resident Brandon Mueller told Berkeley County Council members he was upset by the proposed opening of a limited video lottery location at 9493 Winchester Ave., which is within feet of his home. He said he didn't want his three children to be exposed to such a business.
Because Berkeley County has no zoning ordinance, officials said the business owner's plans to operate limited video lottery machines there only required a county-approved permit for proposed interior renovations to the former beauty salon.
County council members on Thursday authorized that a letter be written to the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration requesting the state agency hold a public hearing concerning the business owner's application to serve alcohol at the establishment.
An ABCA license is required to operate the limited video lottery machines and Mueller said he aired objections about the business when an ABCA agent visited his home.
"It really seems unfortunate that there isn't zoning in Berkeley County ... not only to prevent a bar from opening up in somebody's backyard, but also (for) this business owner," Mueller said. "To be honest with you, if they don't get their license, I kinda feel sorry for them because they invested a lot of money in trying to open it, and if they would have known from the beginning that it wasn't possible they could have saved a lot of expense."