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WV Lottery Commission addresses issue at Wheeling, WV-area retailer

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The West Virginia Lottery Commission made a strong statement in a June 23 meeting that it will not accept unruly shenanigans by its licensed limited video lottery retailers and their employees.

On May 7, a part-time employee of a Wheeling-area retailer cashed a winning $400 ticket for a customer, but illegally subtracted a little for himself by levying a 10 percent “tax” on the winnings – which he stuck into his own pocket.

“We consider this as serious, and take our responsibility as regulators very seriously,” Lottery Director John Musgrave said. 

It was a part-time employee of Hardball Café, a limited video lottery retailer in Sherrard, who attempted to profit from a customers good fortune, and got caught.

A customer held a ticket worth $400 from a machine he played there. When he approached the clerk to collect his winnings, the customer was informed that in order to cash the ticket, a fee of 10 percent would be deducted.

The customer thought it was a mistake, but relented. He also witnessed the clerk rip the ticket in half and dispose of it.

Those actions caused the customer to report the incident to the West Virginia Lottery office, which immediately launched an investigation.

The lottery office contacted Hardball Café owner Nathan King, who attempted to reach the part-time employee whom he hired about two and a half months prior to the report numerous times to conduct his own investigation.

“He wouldn’t reply to the many attempts we made to reach him,” King said. “Finally he told me that he quit, by text message.”

King told the commission he returned $40 to the customer May 23, as soon as he found out about the incident. He also told the commission that Hardball Café has since upgraded its security measures, installing a “high-tech” system that would allow for monitoring at all times, even from his home and a smartphone.

King said that to his knowledge, his establishment has not had a similar issue in its five years of operation.

“We were beside ourselves when this happened,” King said. “We are taking additional precautions to protect ourselves. It was an eye opener.”

King said he sought to uphold his business’ reputation by taking action and appearing in person in front of the commission at the June 23 meeting.

While the commission acknowledged King’s cooperation, it still was swift in its ruling.

“You have an obligation to hire (honest) employees,” Musgrave told King. “We expect you to have an operation that both represents the West Virginia Lottery and protects our citizens. You’re part of the lottery team.”

The commission recommended a $500 fine be levied, which was put to a motion and passed.

“We think this will send a message to others that they have a responsibility to manage their employees,” said Musgrave.

Hardball Café has another location, in Morristown, Ohio. Both locations are attached to DiCarlo’s pizza establishments.

In other action June 23, the commission approved re-licensing, subject to receipt of fees by July 1, for five casinos and race tracks in the state. Mountaineer Park (Chester), Wheeling Island, Mardi Gras (Cross Lanes) and Hollywood Casino (Charles Town) all showed significant decreases in revenues from figures given from 2012 to 2013 in a report given prior to approval.