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Greenbrier Co. vote will ultimately affect us all

In our state and across the country, much ado has been made about the battle for the presidency between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

The battle for governor between Cecil Underwood and Bob Wise also has gained plenty of attention.

Yet the great majority of West Virginians won't vote -- won't even get a chance to vote -- in what may well be the most important race of this election year.

In that race, Greenbrier County residents will make a decision Nov. 7 that could have a wide-ranging, and lasting, impact on the rest of us: Whether to allow The Greenbrier resort to have casino gambling.

On the surface, the issue seems like a local one.

The Greenbrier is far enough south that it seldom affects our lives here in North Central West Virginia. In fact, we usually only hear about the four-star resort a few times a year.

But if gambling comes to The Greenbrier, the impact undoubtedly will spill out of Greenbrier County and eventually make its way to our region.

Our state's fixation with gambling is a troubling one.

Already, many -- too many -- West Virginians spend hard-earned dollars on West Virginia Lottery games in which the odds make the games nothing but a losing proposition.

There are video lottery games at tracks, and there are plenty of so-called gray machines tucked away in back rooms of bars and other establishments throughout the state.

Gambling really has no place in our society. If it did have one, it would be as a form of recreation or diversion. But too many times, that simple "fun" winds up being a compulsive sickness that can lead to the poorhouse -- or the jailhouse.

A casino gambling operation in Greenbrier County would give the dark forces that back gambling the biggest foothold yet in our state.

And as it casts a spell on our residents -- which it undoubtedly will -- casinos will be approved throughout the state.

Gambling is not a solution. It's not a way to get rich quick, it's not a way to build for economic development that can pull our state to greatness.

We've made some great advances in West Virginia over the past 10 to 15 years. We're on the right track.

But like a disease attacking from within, gambling can tear our state down almost before we know what's happening.

We urge -- no, we implore -- the good people of Greenbrier County to vote down this measure.

Otherwise, West Virginia's chances will be about as good as those of a poker player trying to draw to an inside straight.

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

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