West Virginia Lottery Director John Musgrave believes the state can replace lost gambling revenue through online gambling. He fully acknowledges the state is losing that revenue because of competition from other states, which continue to match West Virginia step for step in ramping up the game.
Perhaps Musgrave has not heard the line about trying the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
West Virginians were thrown down a path for which legalized video poker was the gate-opener. Each time, we were told succumbing to the tightening grip of the gambling industry would solve the state's money woes. Each time, it took only a few years before other states caught up, and the bright, shiny new gambling gimmick was losing money.
Musgrave knows this is true. "We're still seeing a decline (in revenue). We still are experiencing competition as the new casinos are coming on in Maryland and some in Ohio. That hasn't plateaued," he said in a report. Why he believes the same will not occur if West Virginia implements online gambling is anyone's guess.
But no need to worry. Legalization of online poker games in West Virginia would require a change to state law. Surely members of the legislature would not allow such a mistake.
Musgrave has thought of that, too. He believes he can circumvent the Legislature by implementing online lottery sales, without getting a bill passed.
"Basically, we think we could implement that now," he said. In fact, he has already planned far enough ahead, under the assumption that he can disregard elected officials, that he has an idea for a smartphone app similar to one that allows the purchase of "eScratch" tickets online.
Musgrave's desire to sneak this one past lawmakers is a clear indicator he does not want public debate about his attempt to follow New Jersey's poor example when it comes to increasing the state's dependence on gambling.
Legalizing online gambling would be one more example of West Virginia capitalizing on vice in order to gain a few dollars for a few years, and continuing to enrich the gambling industry, until the competition catches up - again.
Legislators may believe online gambling is a good bet solely to rake in some additional cash. But the decision on whether to go that route should be theirs, not Musgrave's.