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Precautions: Gambling establishments must reopen safely

Bean counters in Charleston now have a realistic idea of how the closure of casinos and limited video lottery outlets during this pandemic has affected revenue. According to Lottery Deputy Director Dean Patrick, the West Virginia Lottery missed revenue estimates by $64 million in April. There is no reason to think results will be much different for May.

But officials pretended to be caught off guard that, despite the closure of some retailers, sales of traditional lottery tickets brought in $18.2 million for the month. That exceeded some sales for the same period in previous years, according to Lottery Director John Myers.

“It’s surprising,” Myers said.

It shouldn’t be. Not for those running the gambling business in our state. The opportunity existed to play games of chance; gamblers found a way.

That is why it is all the more important for those now reopening their casinos and LVLs to stick to Gov. Jim Justice’s guidance.

“I would encourage our casinos that they’ve got to try with all in them to protect the people there, to protect the integrity of the casinos and do the great practicing (of social distancing) that I know they can do too,” Justice said.

Gamblers will flock to those places as they reopen. Their support of lottery ticket sales tells us those customers did not simply drop the habit. It is possible some establishments will be tempted to ignore the guidelines and cash in by packing in the customers.

For now, they must not give in to that temptation.

Casinos and LVLs must reopen — and not just for the sake of the state’s revenue numbers, but for the sake of employees and related businesses. But they will have to do so cautiously and taking baby steps if we are to continue the restart of our economy successfully and safely.

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