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December 20, 2008     Mountain Messenger
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December20 2008 "Strengthening Community and Promoting Diversity in the Greenbrier Valley,' .vol. xxlv, No. 50 35 rglnla Vl By Joan C. Browning West Virginia is finally num- ber one---in state revenues from gambling. Of the six states op- erating video lottery, Charleston Gazette writer Phil Kabler found that West Virginia's revenues far exceed those of the other states operating video lottery: Oregon, Delaware, South Dakota, New York and Rhode Island. In fact, Kabler reported, West Virginia is second in income from video lottery only to China. West Virginia licenses up to 20,000 video lottery machines to China's 22,000. Video lottery revenues are about $750 for every West Vir- ginian. China's video lottery gen- erates about 80 cents per per- son. West Virginia also exceeded --all other states in the growth of state's four racetracks. How did West Virginia be- come so deeply dependent on gambling revenues? West Virginia has officially sanctioned (and profited from) gambling for the last 22 years. In 1984 voters approved a con- stitutional amendment allowing a lottery. Instant "scratch off' tickets were first sold on Jan. 9, 1986. Other games came and went. In 1988, West Virginia added the "Lotto America" which is now "Powerball." In 1994, the West Virginia leg- islature allowed' voters in the four counties with racetracks to vote on adding slot-machine style video lottery terminals. In 2001, the legislature passed the "Limited Video Lot- tery Act." Now the state took over gambling's share of its stat~-~the illegal "gray machines/ budget. The Rockefeller Institute of Government reported that in 2006, gambling revenues were almost 9 percent of the state's general revenue budget. West Virginia's gambling rev- enue for 2005 at $639 million ranks the state as first for state gambling revenue as a percent- age of personal income. By 2007, West Virginia's in- come from video lottery was $631.15 million. About 30 per- cent, or $189.56 million, came from neighborhood video lottery places. The rest came from video lottery machines located at the state's four racetracks. In 2007, the Lottery Commis- sion derived $189.6 million from the neighborhood limited video lottery revenues---about 30 per- cent of the $631.15 million in total video lottery profits. Most of the video lottery machines, and profits, are located in the Visit us a~ wvcw.motir~tainr~essef~qer c,< ,, Inside This Wcck ',~umber of SectioF~s 4 Gene, .~riefly ................................ 3A Church Directory ........... 7B 'lassifieds ........................ 8A -:he Record ........... 2A '-~ Dtrl I0 F1 ............~ ,:. g ;~o rts ........... -: :4 ]E~- -t,]~Gi'~''-- Stepi P~ovie ; ,-, ,'~ ...... :- Letters -,:_~ ~Sa,q~a .............. 3A Profiles II i, liill lil liill liliiil 8 04879 12750 5 those video poker machines that had operated on in bars and convenience stores. The legisla- ture authorized the Lottery Com- miss*on to license 9,000 neigh- borhood video lottery terminals. By the end of 2004, video lot- tery income far surpassed the traditional scratch off and Powerball. Video lottery income represented more than 70 per- cent of the lottery's total rev- enue. Next the legislature autho- rized table games in counties with racetracks if the county's voters approved. In 2007, Hancock, Ohio and Kanawha Counties added table games. Where does the state's share of gambling revenue go? Until 1989, it went into the state's General Fund. Now, lottery pro- ceeds go into the Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to be appropri- ated by the legislature and gov- ernor. Lottery revenues finance elementary, secondary and higher education and Promise scholarships, support borrowing wa bonds for economic develop- ment, provide matching funds for Medicaid and in home health care and senior support services. Lottery funds finance the toll- free tourist information tele- phone line and awards tourism advertising grants. Gambling is still growing in West Virginia. Greenbrier County voters approved limited video lottery and table games ~t The Greenbrier, although The Greenbrier has not announced plans to add gambling. Some have suggested that the solution to Tamarack's financial stability is to turn part of it into a casino. Lottery's profits fund much of West Virginia state government. But as Dan Page wrote in the State Journal, %..the price has been high." Lottery funds also finance the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia. Page cited a Charleston Daily Mail report that ".. .neighborhood gambling establishments pose more of a temptation and prob- lem than gambling at destina- tion racetracks." The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia re- ported that a,348 callers ac- knowledged a gambling problem See "Video Lottery" pg. 2A Flamingos in Lewisbur .. A flock of flamingos have taken refuge at the Mountain Messenger/ Dozens of the fluorescent birds decorate the office Christmas tree. (See tree in color at mountainmessenger.com) All of us at Mountain Messenger Media wish you a Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year! By Pe~[~v Mackenzie The Greenbrier County Con- vention & Visitors Bureau's Board (GCCVB) of Directors con- ducted an impressively brief monthly meeting closing out a very successful year, with Presi- dent Mike Kidd presiding. Bob Neff, chair of the First Im- pressions Committee confirmed that Phase One of the Bureau's planned move from their present location to Washington Street in downtown Lewisburg is on tar- get for May of 2009. Improvement to the GCCVB's webpage, described by Beth Beyer, marketing director, will feature interactive elements that will more effectively cater to a visitors specific interests, ex- pected to be fully in place by February 2009. The center is also going green with their printed brochures this year by directing the reader to their website where they will more ef- fectively find the information they are seeking. Beth Beyer, marketing director enthused that with less printed materials, they can cut costs. Head of Public Relations, Amy Kaczynski outlined a loose agenda for next year m which the Bureau will partner activi- ties with Lewisburg's downtown shops, as well as provide press releases and new maps and tour guidebooks. Lewisburg was re- cently featured in WVLiving magazine, she said. Further plans for 2009 involve visitor groups and bus tours. As al- ways, the Bureau is exploring better ways to track and iden- tify visitors to the county; where and how long they stay, accord- ing to Executive Director, Kara Dense. The Convention & Visi- tors Bureau has demonstrated focussed support of Greenbrier County with these many new outreach approaches. The Greenbrier and the Greenbrier Council of Labor Unions have signed a no strike, no lock-out agreement which will remain in effect until the Jan. 4, 2010, or until new con- tracts are ratified which ever happens first. The agreement was reached in an effort to pro- vide guests of The Greenbrier with assurance that there would be no disruption in service dur- ing their visits and to minimize the continued cancellation of business. '~We will continue to work to- ward reaching new collective bar- gainlr~ g agreements and look for- ward to accomplishing them as soon as possible, particularly given the significant economic challenges now facing The Green- brier," said Andrew Fogarty, The Greenbrier President. By PeF.~ Mackenzie Public comment was heated and extensive over the County Commission's consideration to vote on a joint private/county proposal for an aquatic recre- ational facility. Just prior to the Commission's regular meeting, a written Agreement in Principle was presented to the commis- sioners by Kevin Workman of Greenbrier Valley Physical Therapy with the intent to con- stitute a binding obligation to proceed with the project. Present at the meeting were several members of the YMCA board, Jeremiah Whitlow of The Fitness Forum, along with Steve Hunter as his legal representa- tive, and numerous others. Most were in opposition to the pri- vate/county project. Several YMCA board members strenu- ously objected to the proposal saying the door has been shut in their face each time they have presented a proposal to the Commission. Their objections included perceived inappropri- ate procedures commissioners may have employed, concerns as to whether Lowell Rose was try- ing to spend money for a pool before he leaves office at the end of this month, and the possibil- ,ity that commissioners were in- appropriately partial to Work- man owing to a friendship be- tween Workman and commis- stoners Tuckwiller and Rose. Steve Hunter said, having briefly reviewed the Agreement in Principle document, that it appeared to be a very "binding legal document for the County Commission" and should be looked over by a legal council before signing. The loss cover- age ratio should be closely re- viewed, he said, since, for ex- ample, the pool in Rainelle which has been never profitable, is only operable for two months during the summer and still has problems finding life guards. If that is any guide, in Hunter's view, the commissioners should be forewarned that there may well be losses from this invest- ment. Jeremiah Whitlow asked, "How are the other facilities to be compensated if this project goes through with Greenbrier Valley Physical Therapy?" Brad Tuckwiller responded that the commission had adver- tised in the papers for a group to come forward to manage the college pool, but that no one vol- unteered. He also said that the proposal by Workman is the only feasible proposal they've had. Signing the document, he said, puts the Commission under no obligation; he said it's just an agreement in principle which will move the path forward, get a dialogue started putting some urgency on a project that's been before the county commission for five to six years, but which has been tabled year after year because funds were lacking. Betty Crookshanks, on the other hand, was ready to table the whole project citing the bad economy and uncertainties over the hotel/motel tax monies. Her option was to fix the college pool as a feasible solution so that an indoor pool could be available to the pubic in Greenbrier County. She remarked, "Revenue projec- tions are not good," and "How are we to go swimming if people are losing their homes?" Following the public com- ments, Kevin Workman of Greenbrier Valley Physical Therapy presented his proposal saying, "The pool facility has the best chance of breaking even where there is a physical therapy facility also available," and that his business is the only one in the area that, at present, can provide such support. "There's room for all three of us in town. ,My aim m this effort to create a public pool facility has been to support the physical wellness of the entire Greenbrier Valley community. I'm not looking for a handout, I'm fine as thingsare now." In an effort to mollify the YMCA group and Whitlow, he also agreed to waive receipt of the $5,000 default fee if the county should terminate the project. After a contentious two hours, the commissioners followed through on a motion to proceed to sign Workman's Approval m Principle Agreement, 2 to 1, with Crookshanks opposing. In new business: Meagan Dorset, speaking for the Cambria Planning Group re- garding the Greenbrier County Comprehensive Plan, presented a progress report resulting from the six Community Workshops held at various town locations in the county in October and No- vember. The report yielded a wealth of information identifying what issues concern the popu- lace and what their priorities are as well. Education, water issues and establishing development growth areas are at the top of the list. Other concerns: loss of young people in the state, lack of economic opportunities, the degradations of the environ- ment, and the bypass around Lewisburg. Various districts or corridors were identified as growth areas as a way to plan on capital expenditures for fu- ture use. Dorset suggested the county build our economic de- velopment starting with the re- sources we already have m place. She presented a well-or- ganized comprehensive plan which can be viewed at www. cambriaplanninggroup.com. Public comment at the end of the meeting came from Vernon Hayslette who cited "an un- speakable tragedy" created when the Commission modified state laws without a public hearing regarding the dog leash law s gned at the last county com- mission meeting on Dec. 8. Com- missioner Tuckwiller stated that Hayslette's interpretation was See "Co. Commission" pg. 2A