AND THEN AGAIN……by Tamara Pettit

….We have another chapter in what I used to refer to as “the Video Lottery Chronicles.” There have been many battles waged in committee, on the floor of the House and Senate, in the bars and behind closed doors over the money-making machines. Known by opponents as the “crack cocaine” of gambling because they are the most addictive and because they gobble money at a rate that makes your head spin, the net terminal revenue from those machines have been the focus of those battles. While anti gambling forces might say it was about West Virginia not going down “the slippery slope to hell”, I was present from day one. It was all about the money in 1993 and it still is in 2023.

……….The bill which divvied up the County’s two percent of the revenue and gave one percent to Chester and Newell (and nothing to Weirton) is huge. While lottery proceeds aren’t what they once were, it’s like Christmas came early in the two little towns. With the County’s two percent projected to be $1,500,000 next year, Chester and New Cumberland should each get $3,500.000 in their coffers The money is sorely needed for streets, broken equipment, etc. And, the County, Well its’ a fine fix they’ve been put in with no wiggle room in their budget. As Commission President Jeff Davis said “There is simply no place to cut.”

…….When the racetrack video lottery was crafted the late Delegate Sam Love and I were sponsors.   There were several exemptions put in place just for Hancock County..  The three other tracks had no casino or hotels so it was written that machines had to be housed in an area in an area attached to the racetrack. Remember the initial bill was all about protecting racing so you wanted the patron near where they ccould see a race or place a bet. But, Hancock County’s situation was different. A 350-macine experiment with machines dubbed”.  “Mountaineer Magic” had been placed in a room where cocktail parties used to be held at the old Waterford Inn. So an exception was made for a “facility built after…..” Our location meant that no city could lay claim to the two percent although a valiant effort was put forth by the Municipal League and the City of of Weirton. The rational in my mind was it was the Sheriff’s office had to provide the protection.

……but amount of money being brought into the County was awesome. Former County Comissioner John Sorrenti once saidbeing a Hancock County Commissioner in the late 90′ was the best job in the world as the Commissioners were able to fund projects brought to them

……The cities were not happy, Former Weirton Mayor and newly-elected Senator Ed Bowman made it a priorty to get those funds divided among the cities on a pro capital basis in 1999. That would mean the dity furthest from the track would get the most money. I opposed it. The bill passed the Senate and was referended to House Finance where I was a member. The bill made it;s demise on a PPI motion passage (that’s the only way to kill a bill dead….postpone it indefinetly. And it did for that session.

But it wasn’t over (I was, I was defeated in 2000) An agreement to was reached between the Commissions and City of Weirton on the distribution of Excess Video Lottery Profits. When the profits his base number, the agreement kcked in on the remaining revenue. Great for a few years. until the bottom fell out and Video Lottery profits plummeted meaning no excess video lottery money and no money to the City.

…And all was quiet until this “little local bill” slipped though with no fanfare. I originally saw the Bill with only Pat McGeehans name as sponsor. Since McGeehan’s unorthodox style of legislating has earned him few allies, I gave short shrift. The content of this bill may be similar to McGeehans but of the ten sponsors the only local legislature is Del. Zatezalo. County officials appeared to be hearing about the bill Thursday and it was a surprise to all.

……New Cumberland and Chester should enjoy its money while they have it which I predict is one year. Next session will see the County and the City of Weirton in Charleston to amend the bill once again.