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National video lottery conference to be next week in Charles Town

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Next week, the West Virginia Lottery will host the first national conference of video lottery states at Charles Town. Attending may be representatives from states -- including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland -- that are competing with West Virginia for video lottery business.

Which raises the question: Why?

"That is an obvious question. We feel we are much better off in having everyone on a level playing field," West Virginia Lottery Commission Director John Musgrave said Thursday.

"If something unsound happens anywhere in the industry, it affects all of us," Musgrave. "Integrity is the key in this business."

The conference is set for Sept. 4-6 at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.

Musgrave said more than 50 participants have registered to attend the conference from:

| Oregon, which operates state-owned video lottery machines in bars and clubs and in casinos.

* South Dakota, which operates a "wide-area network" video lottery, equivalent of West Virginia's limited video lottery in bars, clubs and fraternal organizations.

* Rhode Island and Delaware, which have casino-based video lottery, and for years have participated with West Virginia in offering the multi-state progressive jackpot MegaHits games at casinos.

* Ohio, which has recently launched video lottery at "racinos" around the state, and is looking at joining the MegaHits consortium.

* North Carolina, where video lottery is not currently legal. That state's Lottery has sent representatives to West Virginia to study the state's video lottery networks.

* Georgia, which is converting "gray machine" gambling in bars and clubs into a state-operated video lottery. Musgrave said Georgia is unique in that it is incorporating a system the gray machine operators used to avoid violating laws against gambling: Instead of redeeming winning tickets for cash, winning points can be exchanged for various prizes available at each location.

Musgrave said officials from Pennsylvania have been invited, but as of Thursday have not registered to attend.

Also, vendors of video lottery machines and communications networks will have displays and will make presentations at the conference, Musgrave said.

"It's a first step, I like to say, in an effort to create a mechanism to get video lottery states together to share information," he said.

While some of the states compete with West Virginia for video lottery players, Musgrave said the conference will provide opportunities to discuss cooperative ventures, such as expanding the MegaHits progressive jackpot games into other states.

"We have the ability, being state lotteries, to link games, as we do with Powerball and MegaMillions," he said, referring to multi-state jackpot drawing games.

Likewise, new advanced communications systems will make it possible to feature progressive jackpot games on video lottery or wide-area network lotteries in bars and clubs in multiple states, he said.

New technology also makes it possible to link video Keno games for progressive jackpots. In addition to West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Rhode Island offer Keno, Musgrave said.

Musgrave said it makes sense for West Virginia to host the first conference, since the state offers all forms of video lottery. He said Charles Town was selected as the host site, given its convenient location (less than an hour's drive) to Dulles International airport.

"It's also a venue where we can display one of our more popular facilities," he said, adding, "We think it will be good, working-type meeting."

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

 

 

 


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