Retailer's Big Gamble

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Retailer's Big Gamble

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- After a lengthy battle to remove video gaming machines from convenience stores, and passing a bill to allow the machines only in private clubs, a West Virginia convenience store owner has opened a gaming area as a store within a store, the Clarksburg (W.Va.) Exponent Telegram reports.

The Monti Casino opened two weeks ago inside North Pole convenience store in Clarksburg, said Bill Viglianco, co-owner of Monti Casino. Viglianco said he and his brother, Bob, created their lottery concept by walling off an aisle that formerly stocked slow-moving items.

"I expect to see a lot more establishments at least try it," Bill Viglianco told The Exponent Telegram. "I've made more in two weeks off that aisle than I did in the last year."

Currently, Viglianco said all of Monti Casino's profits are from the video lottery machines, which include poker and other games. He does not plan to sell either the alcohol or food he is now licensed to serve, though he is licensed to.

Greg Skinner, deputy ABCA commissioner, said there are two tracks of Class A licenses, either of which satisfies a key requirement for a video lottery retailer's permit. The first is a $150-per-year Class A tavern or beer license. The second is a $1,000-per-year Class A private club license, which allows the sale of liquor and wine if food is also available.

The possibility of convenience-type stores being able to qualify through such licenses came up in April 2001, when Viglianco and a number of other businessmen began applying for license upgrades. Normally, a convenience store would have a Class B license that allows the sale of packaged alcohol, the report said.

Legislators responded by adding restrictions to the still-pending Video Lottery Act, but the actual words "convenience store" are not included in the changes. What was added was language prohibiting businesses that sell petroleum products from having video lottery on site or, in certain cases, nearby.

The Lottery Commission has recently rejected a number of petroleum-selling businesses that have tried to get machines by building additions or adjacent free-standing structures as a result.

Viglianco, who admits he previously operated illegal gray machines, said the state's attempt to outlaw video machines is hypocrisy, especially since it derives profit from scratch-off lottery games in multiple venues, including those seen by children.