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Is The Greenbrier really so different?

Members of the West Virginia Lottery Commission were regular Fred Astaires this week as they danced around a state law that perhaps should be reconsidered instead.

Gambling at The Greenbrier rests on a different legal foundation than the law that authorized gambling at the state's four racetracks.

As a result, different rules apply.

The law limits casino gambling at The Greenbrier to guests only, depending on how many rooms are occupied, unless there is an "event" such as The Greenbrier Classic that brings in daytime visitors.

The four racinos face no such restrictive regulations.

The commission was concerned that bus companies were advertising "casino trips" to The Greenbrier on the flimsy pretext that a "luncheon" is an "event," stretching the law to a ridiculous degree.

The commission wrestled mightily over the definition of the word "event." It came up with an incredibly complex, two-part definition based on occupancy that brings the word "micromanagement" to mind.

If 400 of the resort's 700 rooms are booked, then one rule applies. If the "event" does not fall into a certain category, other extremely precise regulations apply.

What's a "group event"? What's a "private party"?

Gambling by non-guests hinges on such distinctions.

How can any business survive such micromanagement? And why should only The Greenbrier face a ban on bringing in busloads of day-tripping gamblers?

The Greenbrier's identity is as an exclusive resort, and owner Jim Justice spent millions to buy and refurbish the historic resort. He put up millions to get the PGA to add the Greenbrier Classic to its lineup.

But revenue from day-trippers would be as useful to him as it is to the owners of the four other casinos.

Perhaps the law, not the institution, should change.

For two decades, West Virginia enjoyed a near monopoly among neighboring states on gambling. The state's five casinos added $378 million to the state's coffers in 2011.

But Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland have legalized casino gambling to draw dollars to their treasuries.

Might it not make more sense to even the playing field for The Greenbrier and welcome visitors from Virginia?


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