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The state should regulate the so-called gray machines

The "grays" are everywhere in West Virginia, and lawmakers are looking to do something about them.

We're not referring to those fabled, big-eyed beings from outer space, but to the video gambling machines that can be found in Mountain State businesses that range from bars to convenience stores. Legislators commonly refer to them as "gray machines," and they're just itching to do something about them.

It's no secret that providing monetary winnings for such machines isn't exactly legal. But because it's one of the lesser crimes against humanity, the practice has been largely ignored.

The Associated Press recently surveyed all 34 state senators and 99 of the 100 delegates about these under-the-table payments of winnings. The results showed a pretty equal division on the issue; 49 lawmakers said owners should be allowed to pay winnings, 48 said no and the rest had no answer or were still undecided.

We won't go so far as to say they should be illegal. After all, as Sen. Billy Bailey, D-Wyoming noted, when things are made illegal, it just makes the "profit margin higher for those who want to participate."

But the sheer number of these machines demands tougher regulations by the state, if only to keep them away from children. Young people should simply not have such an easy access to gambling.

Should they be taxed? We don't see why not; revenue raised by a 6 percent tax on machines currently in the state has been estimated at $100 million.

Our main concern, however, is the former one. West Virginia's youth should not be spending their free time at the local 7-Eleven, learning how to gamble as they pump money into a machine marked "For Entertainment Purposes Only."

They know better. And so should we.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of John G. Miller, James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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