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Just before 11 p.m. March 13, 1999, the Rev. Nathan Wilson walks out of


the Senate chamber.

It's the last night of the session, and he is going


home to his wife and baby after 14 hours of

lobbying at the West


Virginia Legislature.



Minutes before, the Senate had rejected a gambling bill that


Wilson fought against all session.

The bill would have allowed West


Virginia's racetracks to introduce new "coin slot" machines.

These are


what most people think of when you say slot machine - pull a lever or push


a button,

and the wheels spin around. When they stop, if you match up


the diamonds, cherries or 7s in the

right order, coins cascade from the





The racetracks knew that if they got coin slots, their profits would


  • kyrocket, but first they

    needed a change in the law. Wilson's bosses


    at the West Virginia Council of Churches feared

    those profits would


    come mostly from people who couldn't afford it. Wilson thought they had



    - two times that night, the Senate rejected the coin slot bill.



    Elated and relieved, Wilson walks down the marble stairs. But a


    gambling lobbyist stops him in

    the hallway. For reasons still


    unclear to Wilson, the lobbyist tells him that the coin slot

    bill is


    far from dead. It could be attached as an amendment to other bills in the


    last hour of

    the session.



    Wilson knows lobbyists and lawmakers use the chaos of the last night of


    the session to slip

    through special interest bills that otherwise would


  • ever pass.


    He wonders if this lobbyist is giving him a tip. Maybe someone had


    already added a coin slot

    amendment to another bill. He sprints up the


  • tairs and runs toward the House chamber.


    Gambling gets what it wants



    Wilson started lobbying for the Council of Churches in 1998 on several


    issues, including

    gambling. He's seen the growth of the


    gambling industry in the state, and its increasing



    under the Capitol dome.



    Wilson said the gambling industry has gotten almost everything


    it has wanted from the

    Legislature in the past two years: a referendum


    on casino gambling at The Greenbrier, no

    regulation of illegal


    video poker machines, and bigger superbingo prizes.



    The gambling industry has been increasing its investment in the


    West Virginia Legislature over

    the past decade. In 10 years, the number


    of gambling lobbyists at the Legislature has

    skyrocketed from


    two to 35.



    Gambling interests gave more than three times as much in


    campaign contributions to state

    legislators in 1998 than in 1996,


    according to the People's Election Reform Coalition. A Sunday Story Incomplete




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