State lottery agency helps Athletic Commission find order
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Lottery Commission is lending staff to the state Athletics Commission in an attempt to help the small agency get its house in order.
State Revenue Secretary Charles Lorensen appointed Lottery Director John Musgrave as deputy revenue secretary in February, giving him oversight of the state's Lottery, Racing and Athletics commissions as well as the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration.
In June, Musgrave began working with Athletics Commission members to make the group more efficient.
Musgrave said the commission has five volunteer members with day jobs, a $51,000 annual operating budget and no staff.
Yet, the commission is responsible for regulating all amateur, professional and semi-professional boxing matches in the state, as well as mixed martial arts bouts.
"They've just been running it on their own time and dedication because they're dedicated to the sport," he said.
A few months ago, Musgrave assigned one of the Lottery Commission's financial officers and attorneys to the Athletics Commission.
He also is working with members to make sure they schedule and advertise meetings properly, prepare an agenda and follow proper meeting procedures.
"They do a fantastic job, we're just trying to help them bring structure to the organization and assess some future needs," he said.
Steve Allred, president of the Athletics Commission, said he welcomes assistance from the Lottery Commission.
"We have needed this for a long time. We just need that structure behind us to help us," he said.
The commission is preparing to launch a website next week. Allred has said promoters and fighters call him at home with questions about licenses and other information. That information soon will be available online.
He said the commission has never had the budget to hire support staff. But under the memorandum of understanding with the state Lottery Commission, members now have more resources to do their job.
"We do it because we like the sport, and want to see it run safely and efficiently," he said.
At a meeting Tuesday, members discussed several changes to the Athletics Commission's rules governing boxing and MMA, including dropping state championship boxing bouts from 10 rounds to eight rounds.
Jerry Thomas, a boxing promoter from Clarksburg who attended the meeting, said shortening the fights would lead to more championship bouts, more entertaining fights for the fans and lower the risk of injury for fighters.
Members also discussed requiring training certification for all judges and referees in the state. Currently, only MMA officials are required to take yearly certification classes.
Commission member Jim Frio recommended the state create its own boxing official certification, instead of going through the national Association of Boxing Commissions, as has been done in the past.
He said it is difficult to get ABC-sanctioned officials, because it is difficult for would-be officials to obtain certification. As a result, promoters have to bring judges and referees from other states.
Frio said a state certification would allow the Athletics Commission to train potential officials.
"We have them here. Our problem is, we're relying on the ABC," he said.
Other board members disagreed, saying a state certification might not protect the commission in a court of law.
Commission president Steve Allred said any changes to certification requirements for officials would require changes to state code by the state Legislature.
Members did not take a vote on any of the changes discussed at Tuesday's meeting, however.