The West Virginia Supreme Court has responded to a U.S. District Court’s question regarding recent litigation involving an Ohio man and whether or not the casino and game manufacturer have an obligation to shield patrons from possible gaming addiction via video lottery terminals. The high court’s decision was that it is the gamblers responsibility to decide whether to continue putting their money into the machines or to stop.
The catalyst for the question posed by the lower court in Wheeling is a lawsuit filed by the widower of an Ohio man, who according to The State Journal was a compulsive gambler who embezzled $7 million-plus from his employer and committed suicide after having gambled and lost millions of dollars including his family’s savings, kid’s college funds, and retirement savings.
Stacy Stevens says that Mountaineer Gaming Group and International Game Technology of Morgantown, West Virginia are responsible for her husband’s death and that they were “duty bound” to step in when his increasing losses became evident. She also said that the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort’s staff should have been aware of her husband’s gambling problem. Stevens said that instead of discouraging her husband from continuing to play, the staff at the Chester, West Virginia facility enticed him with incentives rendering him incapable of quitting, as reported by the news agency.
It is the claim of Stevens that the comps casinos offer make it difficult for gamblers to refuse, and that game manufacturers design video lottery terminals in such a way as to get players to “play longer, more quickly and more intensely,” and, “to create the illusion of chance while instead fostering a disassociated mental state,” as reported by the media source. Stevens believes that some safeguard should be in place at casinos which would lock out a user after an allotted amount of time or money had been spent playing.
However, it was the opinion of the Supreme Court that the state’s video lottery terminals are intended to benefit West Virginia’s economy by providing jobs to its citizens. He added that the state’s officials weighed the costs and benefits and made the decision to make the games accessible to the public. Benjamin said that certain remedies put in place by the Legislature to address the issue, such as an exclusion list and a problem gambling network, “may fairly be subject to debate, and their availability certainly did not prevent Mr. Stevens’ suicide,” but that ultimately the Legislature is the governing body that decides public policy in West Virginia.