A short time ago in speaking with our elected state legislative representatives, we suggested to them that the gambling interests, both in West Virginia and outside the State, would, we felt, be among the first ones to arrive on the scene when the Legislature convened in Charleston this month. And we also made the statement at that time, that we hoped the legislators would not permit this element to monopolize the business of the legislative committees, as they have in the past, thus preventing the duly elected representatives from getting on with other major and more important legislation at hand.
Well, the gambling interests were the first on the scene as they have been for the past half dozen, and even more, sessions of the legislature. And as we suspected they are taking up a lot of the legislators’ time. Only this time they are in the state house in greater numbers and pushing to legalize numerous types of gambling such as a statewide lottery; pari-mutuel betting on dog racing; bingo and even the legalizing of slot machines in the State.
The lottery lobby is pushing their cause under the guise it would raise sufficient revenue to cover the $200,000 Better School Building amendment costs and the Vietnam Veterans Bonus. The lobbyists for slot machines, bingo and dog racing are trying to sell the legislators that revenue from these sources of state-sponsored gambling would help to finance other portions of state government.
First of all we have very serious doubts about whether a state lottery in West Virginia would even bring in enough revenue to cover the administrative costs. Both Pennsylvania and Maryland, neighboring states, have such lottery programs, and we have yet to read one word where the money from this source in either state has worked any great wonders to help alleviate their financial problems. In fact, both are pointing out the need for more money, and after the November elections may have to go for more taxes.
As we understand it now the legislators have decided to shy away from the controversial state lottery issue by just voting to submit it to the voters of West Virginia in November. Well that’s one way to get the gamblers and dogs off their backs.
We are not opposed to the lottery because we think if it is not legalized people won’t gamble. Gambling already flourishes in West Virginia and like other vices, it will continue to exist regardless of what we say or do.
We are against the lottery plan because we believe it is against the best interests of the citizens of West Virginia to finance programs which our legislators and the voters approve through gambling. We do not feel the state of West Virginia should become a sponsor of gambling devices in order to provide funds for the services they vote to provide for the citizenry. The proper source of revenue for our schools, our veterans and any and all services which the state either fully or partially finances should be through taxation and not from gambling and the gambling instincts of the citizenry. We urge the legislature to defeat all these gambling bills now before it!
— Originally printed in the
Spirit of Jefferson-Advocate on Jan. 31, 1974