Greenbrier halts bus day trips to casino
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Management at The Greenbrier resort has stopped allowing bus day trips to the hotel's $80 million casino, West Virginia Lottery Director John Musgrave said Tuesday.
"We looked into this, and absolutely, The Greenbrier was not in compliance when it comes to bus trips coming to The Greenbrier casino," he told members of the Lottery Commission.
"We told them it could not continue. It had to cease immediately," he said of meetings last week with Greenbrier management.
"You cannot have a trip like those advertised to come to The Greenbrier strictly for the sole purpose of going to the casino," Musgrave said of casino day trips promoted by several charter bus companies in Virginia.
Under the state law legalizing casino gambling at the resort, access to the casino originally was limited to registered overnight guests. The law was amended to provide casino access to persons registered to attend conferences, conventions or other events at The Greenbrier on days when 400 or more rooms at the hotel are booked. In September, the Lottery Commission updated its rules to help clarify that the Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament constitutes an event under Lottery regulations.
Musgrave said Lottery staffers initiated an investigation after Gazette reports and a complaint to his office indicated that The Greenbrier was providing casino access to bus day-tour groups, treating those day trips as events.
During a meeting with Lottery officials last week, Musgrave said Greenbrier management agreed to stop allowing day trips to the casino, and to stop providing "casino club" passes to individuals who own property at the Glade Springs or Wintergreen resorts.
Those resorts, located outside of Beckley and Charlottesville, Va., are also owned by Greenbrier owner Jim Justice.
Commissioners discussed at length Tuesday whether they need additional clarification of what constitutes an event at The Greenbrier under Lottery regulations.
Brian Helmick, attorney for The Greenbrier, said the current standard at the resort is whether the outing has been pre-registered and listed on the hotel's daily events calendar.
It is then up to the Lottery's on-site staff to decide whether to issue event passes to the casino for those visitors, provided the hotel has 400 or more rooms occupied.
As an example, Helmick said that if a group of friends came to the resort to play a round of golf and eat dinner, they would not be allowed access to the casino. However, if that same group planned the golf outing and dinner with the hotel sales department and were listed on the hotel's daily events calendar, they could get casino passes, subject to approval by Lottery staff.
Commissioner David McCormick questioned whether The Greenbrier is following the 400-room occupancy rule, noting that at least one charter bus company had scheduled multiple casino day trips throughout October.
"I'd be pretty shocked if I paid for one of these trips and showed up and couldn't enter the casino," he commented.
However, both Helmick and Musgrave said The Greenbrier strictly enforces the 400-room rule, and Helmick said groups are denied casino access on days when fewer than 400 rooms are booked.
Helmick said that while Greenbrier management collaborates with charter bus companies to bring tours to the resort, they were not aware that at least one of the companies was promoting tours as "Greenbrier casino day trips."
McCormick questioned that, noting that until recently the hotel's daily schedule and newsletter to guests had promoted such day trips as "casino party fun trips."
Commissioners Tuesday agreed to schedule a special meeting prior to the Nov. 27 Lottery Commission meeting to discuss whether the definition of "event" in The Greenbrier casino regulations needs to be clarified or modified, and asked that Greenbrier management attend that meeting.
Also during Tuesday's Lottery Commission meeting:
The casino's net revenues of $804,000 for September were 160 percent above Lottery projections for the month.
Revenues from video lottery machines at the state's four racetrack casinos took the hardest hit, dropping from $62.5 million in September 2011 to $56.7 million. However, Lottery officials had projected video slots revenue to fall to $43.7 million for September, because of competition from new casinos in Columbus and Cleveland.
By comparison, Wheeling Island took in $1.17 million in September 2010, and more than $2.5 million in its first month of table game operations, in 2008.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.