Ensure Gambling Sites Are Lawful
When the state’s legalized gambling system was being set up years ago, there seemed to be agreement among most West Virginians that fraternal organizations ought to get some breaks. Now there is suspicion some groups are merely fronts for commercial gambling enterprises.
A little history is in order: For decades before gambling was legalized in the state, many fraternal organizations had old-fashioned mechanical slot machines. Frequently law enforcement agencies feigned ignorance of the one-armed bandits. Proceeds went to worthy causes, after all.
That was why exemptions were written into legalized gambling rules when they and electronic devices changed the game. Fraternal organizations got breaks purely commercial gambling outlets did not under the limited video lottery system.
But the number of so-called fraternal organizations with “lodges,” “nests,” featuring video gambling proliferated. There are far more than there were in the old days.
That has raised eyebrows, especially with stories of fraternal organizations sponsoring gambling outlets their officials have never visited. Some are many miles away from where the sponsoring group’s members live and work.
Now the state Lottery Commission seems to be cracking down. Last week, the panel approved an order giving all fraternal organizations 30 days to report any violations of state regulations. Those failing to do so may be fined and have their gambling licenses revoked.
Two companies, one in Wheeling and the other in Clarksburg, are being investigated by the Lottery Commission. They have been accused of setting up 23 gambling sites, allegedly using fraternal organizations as sponsors.
If so, that would appear to be a violation of the letter of the law. It certainly goes against the spirit of the break granted to fraternal organizations.
It may appear the line crossed is a fine one between purely fraternal organization gambling and that involving a commercial operation. Perhaps so – but a line in the law still is involved. Lottery Commission officials should push to determine whether it has been crossed. If so, some of the gambling sites involved should be shut down.