This is the latest in an occasional series focusing on the issues,
records and platforms of the state's candidates for governor. Today's
installment focuses on gambling.
Gov. Cecil Underwood says he is "very much opposed to the
extension of gambling." Critics say gambling has expanded more rapidly on
Underwood's watch than ever before.
The number of legal video lottery machines in West Virginia increased
from 1,900 in 1996 to 5,300 today, according to the state Lottery
Commission. Total lottery sales have doubled, from $210 million in 1996 to
$448 million for the year ending June 30, 2000.
The Republican's record on gambling doesn't match the rhetoric, said
the Rev. Nathan Wilson, executive director for the West Virginia Council
of Churches and anti-gambling activist.
"Governor Underwood wants it both ways," Wilson said. "When he
ran for office, he said time and again he opposed the expansion. But
there's very little evidence that he's done anything proactive or reactive
to limit expansion."
Gambling interests in the state are putting their money on
Underwood this election. They gave his campaign more than $40,000
as of the end of May. Underwood's opponent, Rep. Bob Wise, has received
$9,750, according to the nonpartisan People's Election Reform Coalition,
which has assembled a database of campaign contributors and their
occupations. Gambling interests include people who own an interest in or
work for racetracks, gray machine distributors, or The Greenbrier, or
their immediate families.
"There's extreme disappointment in the anti-gambling community with the
Underwood administration," Wilson said. He gave several examples of
what he considered to be Underwood failing to live up to his
- Coin-drop slots: Underwood allowed a bill legalizing coin-drop
amended into a bill paying for repairs at the Capitol on the last night of
the session. He did not veto or sign the bill, allowing it to become law
without his signature.