MOUTH OF THE ELK - More Gambling Options Needed, Mezz Could Get More Than Hand-Slap, Ross Ethics Hearing Postponed, Drug Program Passes

By Bob Weaver


Gambling is one of the state's biggest tax producers, but it seems more gambling opportunities are needed, according to an industry spokesperson.

The move is on to legalize table games.

Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Resort President Ted Arneault is leading the charge at four of the state's racetracks.

Fear has spread in the gambling industry and among state tax collectors that the Pennsylvania legislature has legalized slot machines. That state's residents have been frequent flyers to the Mountain State gaming outlets.

Arneault says the state will see at least a $300 million dollar decline in gambling revenues and a 29 percent loss in visitors.

Legalizing table games is just one way to stay ahead, with the state moving toward "full service" casinos.

Charleston has used some restraint to hide the obvious. The gambling industry hopes to have "improvements" come to a head down at the Mouth of the Elk.


A West Virginia official once said "Charleston wouldn't know an ethics violation if it was run flat by a Mack truck."

Now, the Ethics Commission, after shifting about is looking into the transgressions of former House of Delegates Education Chair Jerry Mezzatesta.

The Ethics Commission has "hand-slapping" punishment, but the Kanawha County Grand Jury is meeting behind closed doors this week about possible criminal charges against Mezzatesta.

The Grand Jury could issue more than a hand-slap.

Mezzatesta is facing charges for allegedly lying to the state Ethics Commission and faking a letter or two to get himself off the hook. He claims that his staff made up the fake letters.

The Kanawha County Grand Jury could decide if he should face felony charges of false swearing.

House Speaker Bob Kiss removed Mezz from his powerful position, but he has since been removed altogether by the voters of Hampshire County. He is undergoing treatment for prostrate cancer.

ROSS MISSING ETHICS HEARING TODAY - Randolph County Senator Mike Ross will not be at his Ethics Commission hearing today. He has been excused to attend a vote recount, which now indicates he has lost his seat in the State Senate.

Ross is facing ethics charges related to his voting to give $750,000 of state economic development money for a golf tournament. The charges indicate Ross has a "vested interest" in the Pete Dye Golf Course in Harrison County.

Ross, who owns property adjacent to the golf course, did not disclose that information at the time of his vote.

Ross says he will be fully exonerated.

Sources say Ross invested directly or indirectly in the golf course project.

His hearing will likely be held in December.

STATE VOTES FOR DRUG RELIEF PROPOSAL - West Virginia is taking a bold step to get some relief for citizens in the complicated world of prescription drugs.

Both the House and Senate have approved the measure during this week's joint session.

The state will purchase drugs at deeply discounted prices, similar to the federal government's purchasing system.

The state hopes to save millions of dollars a year.

It could be several months or even years before the state begins to see the savings.

Drug companies are likely to bring a lawsuit over the plan.