Statehouse Beat: Are gambling regulations being ignored?
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the Lottery Commission recently approved a rule relaxing requirements to obtain casino privileges at The Greenbrier, Lottery Director John Musgrave said, "We don't want buses pulling up and unloading folks just for the purpose of going to the casino."
Previously, only registered guests, members of The Greenbrier Sporting Club, or people registered to attend conferences or conventions but unable to find rooms at the hotel could gain access to the $80 million underground casino. The rule change expands that to include "special events" at the resort, such as The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament.
However, readers took the bus comment to heart, advising there are charter bus companies promoting day trips to The Greenbrier, with credits for video slots play as part of the package.
There are at least two companies operating out of Virginia, including Abbott Trailways of Roanoke, which advertises a Greenbrier Casino daytrip, with no fewer than 16 travel dates in October alone.
At $65 per person, the trip includes roundtrip motor coach transportation, a gourmet lunch at the hotel, and an October special of $25 of complimentary slots play. (Normally, the trip comps $15.)
Likewise, Sunshine Tours of Dublin, Va., lists 18 "Greenbrier Hotel One-Day Casino" trips this year, with trips this month on Oct. 6 and 20.
Sunshine's excursions leave from Richmond, Charlottesville and Staunton, and the company bills the trips as, "Monte Carlo meets "Gone with the Wind." The premier West Virginia casino combines high roller thrills and high-class style to create an unforgettable Greenbrier gaming experience."
Sunshine's trips are $75 per person, and include a gourmet lunch and $15 of complimentary slots play.
Musgrave said the Lottery Commission had also received calls after his buses comment was in the news. He said he made inquiries to The Greenbrier management, reminding them that admission to the gaming area for persons who are not guests at the hotel or participants in a conference or event at the resort is not allowed under the state historic resort gaming law.
"It has to be something other than just pulling up the bus," Musgrave said. "It has to be a genuine event."
Musgrave said Greenbrier management said the resort is not permitting bus tours to bring day trip groups to the casino.
"They assured me that was not the case," he said.
Evidently, the argument comes down to whether lunch at The Greenbrier fits the definition of an event under Lottery Commission rules. It seems like a stretch from the original legislative intent to limit access to the casino to hotel guests only.
Quote of the week: "I was surrounded by socialists last night. I had them on two sides of me." -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Raese, making an impromptu analysis on his radio network of his debate with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber.
Sen. Manchin has been called a lot of things over the years, but until last week, socialist was not one of them.
Finally, speaking of debates, Mountain Party Chairwoman Charlotte Pritt called to complain about the inherent unfairness over the exclusion of gubernatorial candidate Jesse Johnson from Tuesday's state Broadcasters Association debate -- particularly since the Mountain Party has been recognized as a bona fide official political party by the secretary of state's office since 2000.
(That is some Catch-22: The WVBA excludes Mountain Party candidates from the statewide televised debates because they're not considered legitimate challengers ... but they can't gain legitimacy as long as they're excluded from the debates.)
The argument of time constraints might wash in some past Democratic primaries, when there have been multiple candidates on the ballot, most fitting the fringe category. An hour-long debate among three candidates doesn't seem so difficult by comparison.
Meanwhile, Pritt believes it's time for the Mountain Party to have a representative on the state Elections Commission -- and indicated she would be more than happy to accept an appointment by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Actually, there is a vacancy on the commission, and the law simply says that of the governor's appointees (the secretary of state is the fifth member), no more than two may be of the same political party.
Currently, the commission has two Republicans (Rob Rupp and Gary Collias), and one Democrat (Bill Renzelli), so the vacancy would have to be filled by either a Democrat or Mountain Party member.
However, Pritt would have to resign as party chairwoman, since the law prohibits appointing public officials, candidates, members of political party committees, or anyone with a financial interest in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of voting machines.
Still, she certainly would liven up Elections Commission meetings.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.