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Small operators of gambling businesses need right to advertise

As staunch opponents of any expansion of the gambling industry in West Virginia, we find ourselves in a unique position -- siding with small gambling operators.

The dispute: Should any video lottery retailer be able to advertise that they have the machines?

Currently, only the four major racetracks in the state are able to advertise that they have the casino-like machines. You've probably seen some of their ads on television, heard them on radio, or maybe even seen them in newspapers.

Small operators, like the numerous ones that have sprung up in Harrison and surrounding counties, are not able to advertise they have the machines. They are, however, able to advertise some forms of state-sponsored gambling such as Powerball and Keno.

These double, or if you will, triple standards have some of the smaller operators upset -- and rightfully so.

Some have found legal ways to advertise their establishments that suggest they have the machines, but the bottom line is they are placed at a disadvantage.

Gee, wonder if they would get a better deal if they had more lobbying money?

Undoubtedly, if the smaller operators band together, they will be able to fight the law, either in court or by convincing legislators that it's unfair.

It's these types of issues we predicted would occur when the state legalized video lottery last year.

They are the same types of problems that emerged in South Carolina and other states.

Eventually, much of the legislation put in place to "limit" video lottery is tossed out by courts or eventually watered down, leading to a proliferation of the gambling machines. That's what happened in South Carolina. And it could easily happen here.

But, like it or not, small-time operators are right on the advertising issue.

If the big boys can do it, why can't the little guys?

In West Virginia, it shouldn't be that surprising that video lottery favors big business. It just continues a legendary legislative trend.

John G. Miller