Pilot Casinos Could Become Election Issue

Look for a new issue to be raised in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Opponents of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam know that the Pilot Travel Centers in Nevada include adjacent slot machines and advertise as "casinos," though the issue thus far has been raised only by also-ran candidate Joe Kirkpatrick. He has brought it up on blog comments and at the Tea Party convention gubernatorial forum in Gatlinburg last weekend.

Opponents of Haslam have raised the issue of Pilot selling state regulated beer, tobacco, and lottery tickets in Tennessee. The slot machine operations in Nevada is unlikely to resonate, unless one of the major candidates start talking about it. Haslam's strongest critic, Bill Gibbons, made an issue of Haslam's failure to disclose Pilot income. He has since dropped out of the race.

The website for the Pilot Travel Center at Wendover, Nev., just across the border from Utah, lists as an amenity the Pilot Casino on site with 75 slot machines. The Pilot Casino in Carlin has 69 machines, in Fernley 74 machines, and in Winnemucca 70 machines. The Pilot Casinos owner is listed as a private company incorporated in Nevada called Leisure Gaming Inc. Pilot also has franchise restaurants at many of its locations.