JUST MY OPINION……by Tamara Pettit

I have a vested interest in racetrack video lottery…..I and the late Del. Sam Love birthed it in 1994.    We spent many long hours going over the percentages of where the  net terminal revenue should go and  my status as the delegate who huddled in the back room of the Finance Committee sweating our percentages with industry officials and the governor’s office gives me reason to offer up my opinion on the current situation.

The legislative session is just weeks away now and we have a serious issue that needs to be addressed in the statute.  During the last session,  Hancock County’s portion of Racetrack Video Lottery solution was reduced by 50% – from 2 percent to 1 percent of the net terminal revenue with the remaining 1 percent going to Chester and New Cumberland.  Those small towns need that revenue and they should continue to receive it.  The two communities are doing much needed projects.  The portion of Weirton that is in Hancock County got screwed in the bill passed in the 23 session.  Since they were partly in Brooke they got nothing.  That needs to be amended as well to reflect their portion.

Del. Zatezalo, who sponsored the bill which changes the percentage, has assured the County Commission that the County will be made “whole.”  We need to know his plan and it can’t be a one- time amount. Those percentages are ongoing.

In the making of the original bill there was a lot of horse trading, and not just for the purse fund.   Pots were sweetened to bring in delegates’ and senators’  votes:   Creation and funding of the convention & visitors bureau; reduction of the Workers Comp. debt;  a garage for the state building; and at one time the State Police Courtesy Patrol.  You see where this is going.  You had to give a little to get a little and if you truly were worried about the folks back home……you had to hold on tight to keep what was rightfully theirs.

Most people don’t know that the original video lottery died the last night of the session over the revenue distribution.  Sam and I wouldn’t give on what was important to us, the County distribution, the pensions; the horsemen had to stand fast on the purse distribution; and when the bill got to the Senate, they lowered the amount Mountaineer got.  Ted Arneault said that amount wasn’t enough to run the track and he too, held fast and the bill died.  Fortunately, I was a member of House Finance where we had put Governor Caperton’s funding for his computers in the school in the bill.  When the bill died that program died.  The Governor called us back into special session and we got it worked out.  Always good to have the Governor on your side.

It’s time to reconfigure that distribution pie and get both the county and city’s fair share.   If I were looking for a place to get the 1 percent back to the County, I would take a serious look at reducing the percentage Mountaineer gets for operating costs.  We’ve seen Mountaineer reduce or tear down the amenities which once promised a destination resort and to take profit out of state rather than invest it in our communities.   It’s time we take care of our own.