Access to Holgorsen casino footage denied
CHARLESTON, W.Va.--The West Virginia Lottery Commission is refusing to make public footage of West Virginia University football head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen's incident two weeks ago at a Nitro casino.
Security officials at Mardi Gras Casino & Resort called the police after 3 a.m. May 18 to have Holgorsen escorted from the building.
ESPN and the Daily Mail had asked the lottery, which regulates part of the casino's operations, for footage of the incident, which was caught on the casino's surveillance cameras, according to multiple sources.
The lottery has access to footage from the casino as part of its oversight authority.
But the lottery said in a two-page reply to a written Freedom of Information Act request from ESPN that because the Holgorsen incident didn't involve gaming activity, it doesn't need to provide access to the video.
In addition to the gaming areas that the lottery oversees, the casino's cameras cover areas that "exist as a business decision of Mardi Gras but are not required by the Commission," lottery director John Musgrave said in the letter.
"Our records do not show any casino gaming problems for the time period of your request," Musgrave said in the letter. "I have no information indicating Mr. Holgorsen and his group were visiting Mardi Gras in any official government capacity. Consideration should also be given to the images of other customers who had nothing to do with Mr. Holgorsen's presence and may expect proper handling of their right to privacy."
The lottery also said the video itself is only in the possession of the casino so shouldn't be considered a public document.
"No Lottery employee has received or requested copies of the images for the date and time periods you specified in your letter," Musgrave said. "My opinion, therefore, is that the images you have requested are not a 'public record' of the State Lottery Commission."
Jon Amores, the head of the state Racing Commission, which also oversees aspects of Mardi Gras' operations, said he didn't know under what authority he could request to see the footage of something at the track/casino complex that wasn't related to racing.
The Nitro Police Department responded to a 911 call from the casino at 3:13 a.m. because an apparently intoxicated customer was "refusing to cooperate with the casino's management," according to Metro 911 dispatch logs.
Casino supervisors had the customer detained after he declined to leave.
Patrolman Raymond Blake said the officers dispatched to the scene encountered a man who was identified as Holgorsen. Blake said Holgorsen offered no resistance.
"We got up there and spoke to the male and said, 'Hey, they want you to leave,' " Blake said. "He complied, walked out, sat out on a bench, waited for the taxi, and when the taxi arrived, he got in and left."
Blake didn't know what prompted the call from the casino. Repeated messages left at the casino have not been returned, including those to General Manager Robert Lagg, to whom all calls have been referred.
Sources told the Daily Mail Holgorsen and those he was with grew too loud and rowdy for the casino's comfort and were asked to control themselves before things escalated.
Holgorsen has since apologized for the incident.
Contact writer Ry Rivard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1796.