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Governor visits 2 area schools to push PROMISE program

From Staff, Wire Reports

The legalized gambling debate moves close to home today as Gov. Bob Wise visits two area high schools to promote his PROMISE Scholarship program.

Wise will meet with Bridgeport High School sophomores and juniors at noon in the school auditorium. The session is open to the public, according to Lindy Bennett, principal.

Wise also plans to meet with local clergy from 11:15 a.m. to noon in the school's library, but that session is closed to the public.

He will speak to Grafton High School students beginning at 2:30 p.m.

To pay for PROMISE scholarships, Wise has asked legislators to legalize 9,000 additional video slot machines. The governor's proposal would allow more than 15,000 legalized machines since the state already regulates more than 6,000 machines at the state's four race tracks.

Wise has said his legislation will limit the number of machines. In the past he has said he believes there could be as many as 30,000 machines in the state.

Wise ordered the State Police and Alcohol Beverage Control Administration to count the machines, and Amy Shuler Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Wise, indicated on Thursday that the official number may be under 20,000.

The governor's visit is being called a media tour to generate support for legalized gambling by Michael Queen, spokesman for The West Virginia Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.

Queen, a resident of Bridgeport, said Thursday that his group is concerned the governor is holding a closed meeting with clergy in a public facility.

He also said the group has a new study that questions the practice of using lottery proceeds to pay for educational programs.

The study, "Lotteries for Education; Windfall or Hoax?" was conducted by Donald E. Miller and Patrick A. Pierce of St. Marys College. It looked at 12 states, including West Virginia, that passed lotteries from 1965 to 1990.

The basic conclusion of the study was that "lottery revenue is unlikely to materially increase funding for education" and "claims that lotteries will improve education funding are likely to be as misleading as the odds of their winning those lotteries are meager."

"This is not a report that Gov. Wise has indicated he and his staff have read or are willing to review," Queen said. "It certainly brings the issue of gambling funds for education to the political forefront. I am anxious to see how he will respond to the findings in this report."

Bill Case, the governor's press secretary, said the report is unfamiliar to the Wise camp. He said the governor had to make some difficult decisions in preparing this year's budget and believes he's made the best decisions possible.

"But we welcome opinions from Mr. Queen and others," Case said. "If anyone else has any ideas how to fund the program, we'd be interested in hearing from them."

Those who wish to attend the governor's presentation must sign in at the Bridgeport school office prior to noon.

The Grafton meeting will be open to the entire student body and invited guests.

Assistant City Editor Gail Marsh, managing editor John G. Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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