Last week, I noted how the Lottery Commission is in a tough spot in cracking down on tour bus day trips to The Greenbrier casino, since the commission must both regulate and promote state-sanctioned gambling.
Turns out, the commission was more complicit than originally thought in allowing Jim Justice and company to break the state historic hotel gaming law (or at least bend it beyond recognition).
The law (25-25-1 et. al.) and legislative rules are clear that the casino is to be an amenity for hotel guests, not a gambling outlet for day-trippers.
In fact, the law specifically states: "It is expressively not the intent of the Legislature to promote gaming" but to provide "a resort hotel amenity which is increasingly important to many actual and potential resort hotel patrons."
Both the law and legislative rule are clear that access to the casino is restricted to:
1. Registered overnight guests of the hotel.
2. Registered participants at a convention or event being held at the hotel.
3. Members of homeowners or facility associations that entitle members to "substantial privileges at the hotel," and those members' overnight guests.
(For those not intimately familiar with the legislative process, when the Legislature passes a law, the affected agency has to write long, detailed rules for how that law will be implemented -- rules that have to be approved by the Legislature during its next regular session.
The legislative rules for The Greenbrier casino run 132 pages and go into great detail on things like specifications for playing cards and dice, and even the colors of betting chips by denomination. (If anyone ever gives you a gray Greenbrier casino chip, don't throw it away. It's worth $5,000 ...)
While neither the law nor the legislative rule defines event, the legislative intent is clear that it is to be the equivalent of a convention, under circumstances where attendance at said convention or event is so large that a majority of rooms at the hotel are booked.
Unfortunately, the Lottery Commission itself muddied the water when during its May 19, 2011, meeting in Charles Town, it adopted Policy Statement 11-02/GB.
The policy -- which, of course, does not carry the weight of law -- was apparently prompted by near-daily inquiries from on-site Lottery staff to the director's office as to whether particular groups requesting casino access constituted events under the law.
Oddly, instead of defining "event," as we anticipate the Lottery Commission will do Nov. 27, the policy statement instead cites three examples of what is not an event.
The statement says it is not an event if the visit is strictly confined to the casino, and involves no other hotel or resort activities. It is also not an event if there is no fee or payment to the hotel, or if that fee is nominal, defined in the statement as less than $20.