The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 27, 2012

Lottery official absolves Greenbrier

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Protocol indeed was followed and investigators signed off on pre-tour forms before bus groups gained access to The Greenbrier’s casino, the deputy director of the West Virginia Lottery acknowledged Friday.

Moreover, on occasion, when the mandatory 400 rooms weren’t occupied, the famed resort put the casino off limits to those who weren’t registered as overnight guests there, John Myers said.

In fact, the recent controversy flared over some advertisements posted by some bus companies, but once the problem surfaced, Myers said Greenbrier owner Jim Justice “jumped in very quickly to remedy the situation.”

“People get a little bit hung up on the fact that the buses are running to The Greenbrier,” the deputy director said.

“Well, the buses running to The Greenbrier themselves are not a problem. That’s been going on long before there was a casino there. I don’t know how that’s got to be such an issue in some of the media. But that is not the problem, the fact that they arrive on the bus.”

The snafu lay in the fact that some bus outfits billed such runs to the famed resort in White Sulphur Springs as a “day trip” to the casino, which is not legal, Myers emphasized.

“You can’t come for the sole purpose of going to the casino and that’s really what they were advertising,” Myers said.

As far as The Greenbrier itself, he said, the staff followed procedure and all pre-tour forms were signed off by the lottery officials. Justice told The Register-Herald that the lottery has seven investigators and one auditor on site on a full-time basis and that the resort did exactly what the state requires with regard to events.

And therein lies some of the issue: Just what constitutes an event that qualifies visitors for a casino pass?

That will be taken up late next month in a meeting, Myers said, adding that there are some general rules in place now to define an event. For instance, a tour of the bunker is one such qualifying visit, or a class in flower arrangement, or attendance at a large conference.

“And the lottery does approve those qualifying events,” the deputy director said.

“Mr. Justice is correct. I don’t think we have allowed anything to come into The Greenbrier that was not a pre-approved event.”

Myers said he doesn’t think the resort management promoted the on-line advertising that some bus firms ran, offering its customers casino bus tours.

“Most of them were doing it correctly, but there were two or three and those were the violators that the director pointed out at the commission meeting,” he said.

Myers said he understands the hotel has removed everything in the bus ads that were in conflict with lottery standards.

“Where this becomes The Greenbrier’s problem is they contract with the bus companies and they have to take the responsibility to oversee the advertising that these companies are putting out on their behalf,” he said.

“They are, in fact, an agent of The Greenbrier. The response of The Greenbrier to me has been very satisfactory. They quickly dealt with the bus companies and I think that’s what we should ask them to do.”

Myers said he doubted that “a big disconnect” surfaced between the Lottery Commission and The Greenbrier over the casino’s operation.

“I think it was just a lot of people in the middle — you know, he said, she said, they said — and that has not worked so well,” he said.

“This is not a witch hunt after The Greenbrier. I’m probably as big a Jim Justice fan as you’ll find in the state for what he’s done over there. I’ve never met him personally, but he certainly put a big investment in there.”

Another issue that had been raised was the legality of members of Glade Springs Resort in Raleigh County and Wintergreen Resort in Virginia, both now owned by Justice, being granted so-called “casino passes.”

Justice reiterated Friday that the only way members at Glade and Wintergreen could access the casino, and take advantage of other membership privileges at The Greenbrier, was through a separate membership in The Greenbrier’s Golf and Tennis Club which would afford those people and their guests the aforementioned access.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com