CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Lottery Commissioners Tuesday adopted a "don't advertise-don't tell" policy that will allow bus tour day-trips to The Greenbrier casino to continue.
After more than an hour of debate, commissioners Tuesday adopted a new definition of "event" under the state historic resort gambling law that will allow day-trippers to continue to have access to the resort's $80 million casino.
Commissioner Michael Adams said the previous Lottery rule was confusing, since it spelled out things that would not qualify as events under the law, but did not define what constitutes events.
"By virtue of not having a clearly defined definition of event, these bus tours had started and that became a matter of concern," Adams said of bus companies in Roanoke and other western Virginia cities that were advertising Greenbrier casino day trips.
"We've tried to move to give a positive, affirmative definition," he said.
Under the law legalizing casino gaming at the resort, access to the casino is limited to registered overnight guests at the hotel, or to persons attending conferences, conventions or other "events" at the resort, when 400 or more rooms at the hotel are booked.
On Tuesday, the commission adopted a two-prong definition of events, first outlining distinctive or unique events, including weddings, concerts, the PGA golf tournament and other sporting events.
Other activities can qualify as events, under the new rule, if they:
Provide seven days' advance notice to Lottery officials.
Are published in The Greenbrier's daily events calendar.
Have a minimum of 20 participants.
Impose a minimum participation fee of $20 per person.
Are not confined exclusively to the casino.
Greenbrier lobbyist Larry Puccio told the commissioners he believes the issue is not the day-trips to the casino, but that some bus tour companies were advertising them as "casino trips."
He said Greenbrier management, which contracts with the companies for the bus tours, immediately ordered them to stop advertising the tours as casino trips.
"The important thing here is we want to protect the integrity of The Greenbrier, and the state of West Virginia," said Puccio, state Democratic Party chairman and former chief of staff under then-Gov. Joe Manchin.
"The issue is this, this commission does not govern what the hotel does. You govern who comes into the casino," said Lottery Director John Musgrave.
He said the Lottery has treated the casino day-trips as events under the old rule, since the packages generally include a buffet lunch or brunch at the hotel.
"If they do that 365 days a year, is that an event?" Musgrave said. "When does it cease to be an event and become a routine thing?"
Afterward, Musgrave said he believes the new definition is consistent with the legislative intent under The Greenbrier casino law, which states the casino is to be an amenity "that is increasingly important to many actual and potential resort hotel patrons."
He also said the commission's interpretation that the 400-room occupancy requirement applies to overall occupancy at the resort - not to rooms booked for the particular event -- is also consistent with the legislative intent.
"We've always interpreted it that it was overall occupancy," he said.
Musgrave said he believes the new rule provides clarity, both for Greenbrier management and for Lottery regulators.
Meanwhile, revenue for The Greenbrier casino continued a sharp upturn in October, according to Lottery figures.
Gross revenue for video slots at The Greenbrier in October was $433,105, up 25 percent from September and up 61 percent from October 2011.
Table games at The Greenbrier grossed $1.12 million in October, up 36 percent from October 2011. The state's share of table games profits for the month was $394,545.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.