This article originally provided by
May 27, 2007
Gaming donations up in legislative races, group says
Paul J. Nyden
Gaming interests made more political donations during the 2006 election cycle
than ever before, according to an analysis released Friday by the West Virginia
People’s Election Reform Coalition.
Norm Steenstra, a representative of PERC, said, “Gaming contributions to
House candidates rose from $61,368 in 2004 to more than $243,400 last year.
“Never has an increase been that dramatic in contributions to candidates in
House of Delegates races,” Steenstra said.
Gaming and casino interests contributed more than $92,000 to state Senate
candidates, an increase of less than $4,000 from contributions made during the
previous election cycle.
PERC has analyzed contributions to all state legislative and gubernatorial
candidates since 1996.
Records of those political contributions are filed with Secretary of State
Betty Ireland and are available to the public, at no cost, on her office’s Web
Earlier this year, legislators passed a bill allowing residents of four
counties to vote on whether to allow local racetrack/casino facilities to add
table games to their current operations. Those referendums will begin in June.
PERC, a coalition of several groups, takes no position to support or oppose
any issue in a referendum or any candidate on an election ballot.
Today, some PERC members take opposing stances on whether gaming should be
expanded. The West Virginia Council of Churches opposes expansion, while the
West Virginia Labor Federation, part of the AFL-CIO, supports it.
Steenstra said: “Regardless of how one feels about the gaming issue, last
year’s campaign contributions sent a message to every special-interest group: If
you throw a lot of money at the Legislature, you will probably get your bill
During 2006 election campaigns, West Virginia racetrack/casino owners and
their supporters gave more than $335,000 to legislative candidates.
The four racetracks in West Virginia are: Tri-State Race Track & Gaming
Center in Cross Lanes, owned by Tyner & Hartman Inc. of Southfield, Mich.;
Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in Chester, owned by MTR Gaming Group
Inc.; Wheeling Island Gaming, owned by Delaware North Cos.; and Charles Town
Races & Slots, owned by Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing, Pa.
The vast majority of their contributions went to Democratic candidates, many
of whom also received labor union contributions.
The United Steelworkers, for example, actively supports the gaming industry,
in part because its members include hundreds of employees at Tri-State in
Only three Republicans running for seats in the House of Delegates last year
reported taking gaming contributions, PERC found.
They were: Delegates William R. Romine, R-Tyler, and Gil White, R-Ohio, as
well as Scott Reed, a nonincumbent candidate running in Ohio County. Romine won,
while White and Reed lost.
The biggest contributors in 2006, according to PERC, were:
Jeremy Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Delaware North Cos. and owner of the
Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League, $57,250.
Herbert Tyner, a Tri-State co-owner, $25,250.
Penn National PAC, $23,750.
Bernard Hartman, a Tri-State co-owner, $23,500.
Robert Blatt, MTR’s executive vice president, $16,400.
Robert Ruben, a former MTR director, $16,400.
Edward Arneault, MTR’s chief executive, $8,400.
Louis Aronson, a law partner at Ruben’s law firm in Maryland, $6,679.
In addition, $44,596 came in smaller contributions from a variety of other
donors with interests in owning or representing casinos and racetracks.
Other political action committees created by the state’s racetracks
contributed another $25,550, PERC reported.
Of the 12 individual House of Delegates candidates who received the most from
gaming interests, five came from Kanawha County and two from Wyoming County.
House Majority Leader Joe DeLong, D-Hancock, $9,761, got the most.
The other top recipients were: Delegates Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, $9,002;
Danny Wells, D-Kanawha, $7,550; Mike Burdiss, D-Wyoming, $7,336; and Jon Amores,
Also: Delegates Bobbie Hatfield, D-Kanawha, $6,252; Sharon Spencer,
D-Kanawha, $6,002; Lidella Hrutkay, D-Logan, $6,001; Charlene Marshall,
D-Monongalia, $6,001; Ron Fragale, D-Harrison, $6,001; and Carrie Webster,
Paige Flanigan, a Democrat who lost his race for a House seat from Mercer
County, received $7,337.
Amores won, but resigned his seat in March, after serving 12 years, when he
became deputy secretary and general counsel for the West Virginia Department of
The biggest Senate recipient of gaming contributions was Sen. Mike Green,
D-Raleigh, who received $27,502. Green, who breeds racing greyhounds, won the
Democratic primary by defeating former Sen. Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, and Delegate
Sally Susman, D-Raleigh.
Other top recipients were: Sens. Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, $8,300; Brooks McCabe,
D-Kanawha, $8,002; Randy White, D-Webster, $8,002; H. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo,
$7,500; and Larry J. Edgell, D-Wetzel, $6,500.
Former Sen. Fred Parker, D-Monroe, received $8,500 for his Senate campaign,
but lost to incumbent Sen. Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier. A retired schoolteacher,
Parker was supported by teachers and labor groups.
PERC is still refining its data, Steenstra said, noting that slight changes
might be made after candidates submit amended versions of their reports at the
secretary of state’s request.
“But I am confident these figures are at least 95 percent correct,” Steenstra
To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.