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Lottery Commission goes full-steam ahead with slot machines

State Lottery Commission Chairman Virgil Thompson says the commission will listen to the public. If there is public concern about the growing number of video slot machines at state racetracks, the commission might limit the number of machines, Thompson told the Associated Press.

What does Thompson mean when he says the Lottery Commission may limit slot machines if there is public concern? He and everyone else in state government already know there is public concern about legalized gambling in the Mountain State. They know that the majority of West Virginians do not want casino gambling in their state. Yet the Lottery Commission routinely approves racetracks' requests for more and more slot machines, allowing them to become casinos in everything but name.

Charles Town Races is a fine example. The track started out with 400 machines in 1996, then got approval for 600 more, then got approval for 500 more. Now it wants the Lottery Commission to approve another 500. If approval is granted, and there's no reason to think it won't be, Charles Town Races will have a total of 2,000 slot machines.

Thompson told the AP he's not concerned by the rapid increase in slot machines. But we think more state officials should be. More state officials should share the concern of Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, who told the Associated Press: "I don't think any of us had any idea we would be going to 1,000 and 2,000 machines."

There's no doubt that the people of West Virginia, like Delegate Overington, are concerned about the gambling industry taking root here. State officials should stop pretending they don't know that, and start listening to the people.

Tim Langer

Telegram Editorial Board member

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