Just before 11 p.m. March 13, 1999, the Rev. Nathan Wilson walks out of
the Senate chamber.
It's the last night of the session, and he is going
home to his wife and baby after 14 hours of
lobbying at the West
Minutes before, the Senate had rejected a gambling bill that
Wilson fought against all session.
The bill would have allowed West
Virginia's racetracks to introduce new "coin slot" machines.
what most people think of when you say slot machine - pull a lever or push
and the wheels spin around. When they stop, if you match up
the diamonds, cherries or 7s in the
right order, coins cascade from the
The racetracks knew that if they got coin slots, their profits would
needed a change in the law. Wilson's bosses
at the West Virginia Council of Churches feared
those profits would
come mostly from people who couldn't afford it. Wilson thought they had
- two times that night, the Senate rejected the coin slot bill.
Elated and relieved, Wilson walks down the marble stairs. But a
gambling lobbyist stops him in
the hallway. For reasons still
unclear to Wilson, the lobbyist tells him that the coin slot
far from dead. It could be attached as an amendment to other bills in the
last hour of
Wilson knows lobbyists and lawmakers use the chaos of the last night of
the session to slip
through special interest bills that otherwise would
He wonders if this lobbyist is giving him a tip. Maybe someone had
already added a coin slot
amendment to another bill. He sprints up the
Gambling gets what it wants
Wilson started lobbying for the Council of Churches in 1998 on several
gambling. He's seen the growth of the
gambling industry in the state, and its increasing
under the Capitol dome.
Wilson said the gambling industry has gotten almost everything
it has wanted from the
Legislature in the past two years: a referendum
on casino gambling at The Greenbrier, no
regulation of illegal
video poker machines, and bigger superbingo prizes.
The gambling industry has been increasing its investment in the
West Virginia Legislature over
the past decade. In 10 years, the number
of gambling lobbyists at the Legislature has
two to 35.
Gambling interests gave more than three times as much in
campaign contributions to state
legislators in 1998 than in 1996,
according to the People's Election Reform Coalition. A Sunday Story Incomplete