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Greenbrier's October Plans for Gambling Operations on Tight Deadline

By Phil Kabler, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 1, 2009--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Lottery Commission members are expected to approve a license this week for The Greenbrier to operate casino-style table games, Lottery Director John Musgrave said Monday.

Even if Thursday's emergency meeting goes as planned, the operators of the White Sulphur Springs resort face a tight timeline to open a temporary gaming facility. Officials of the resort have previously announced that they plan to start up gaming on Oct. 1.

"We're anxious to see The Greenbrier get started," Musgrave said. "That is a very aggressive schedule for an October opening."

That's based on start-up times for table games at Mountaineer, Wheeling Island and Tri-State racetracks, which didn't have their gambling facilities fully up and running until up to six months after their table game licenses were issued.

Mountaineer and Wheeling Island both obtained their gaming licenses on July 3, 2007. Both tracks began operating poker tables in late October.

Mountaineer opened its full variety of table games in late November, while full table game operations didn't come on line at Wheeling Island until January 2008.

Tri-State had a quicker turn-around. It received its table games license on July 1, 2008, and opened its poker tables in late August, with full table games operations beginning in mid-October.

Musgrave hopes the temporary facility at The Greenbrier can have a quicker start-up time, since it will be a relatively small operation.

However, under state law, the Lottery cannot begin any preparations for gaming at the resort until the license is issued. That includes everything from approving the floor plan for the gaming area to licensing individual dealers and other gaming area staffers.

"We cannot do anything until they get their license," Musgrave said of the resort. "After we issue the license Thursday, we'll see how far along they are."

Greenbrier spokeswoman Lynn Swann said Monday that Todd Fishon, vice president for casino operations at the resort, is confident gaming will be up and running within a month. Fishon has 23 years' experience operating casinos in Atlantic City, Connecticut and Arizona.

"We are on pace for an Oct. 1 opening," Swann said.

The temporary, 3,700-square-foot facility in the resort's Virginia Wing will be limited to 10 gaming tables, offering blackjack, poker and roulette, and about 40 video lottery machines, Swann said.

"We will be working very closely with the state so we can get approval of our gaming staff and procedures," she said.

The permanent casino, now under construction and expected to open in April, will have 38 gaming tables and about 320 slot machines.

Musgrave said that while The Greenbrier casino will have a comparatively limited impact on state Lottery revenues, he believes it will be a valuable resource in attracting conferences and conventions to the state.

"It adds a dimension that competing resorts won't have," he said.

The initial license fee of $65,000 will go to the Bureau of Senior Services for its community-based services fund.

In the second year, the license renewal fee will jump to $250,000, and increase to $500,000 in the third year. In subsequent years, the license fee will be calculated based on the previous year's adjusted gross casino receipts, for an amount of not less than $500,000 nor more than $2.5 million.

By comparison, racetrack table games licenses are $1.5 million for the first year, and $2.5 million for each annual renewal.

@tag:Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

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To see more of The Charleston Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wvgazette.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.

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