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Racetrack operators want video lottery to pay in coins

January 02, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Operators of the local thoroughbred racetrack say they want their video lottery machines to pay out winnings in coins rather than the current paper validation slips.

Players want coin payouts so they can move freely from machine to machine, said Bill Bork Jr., director of marketing at PNGI Charles Town Races.

Currently, players who win money on video lottery machines receive a slip of paper from the machines that reveal their winnings.

Players then have to take the slips to a validation window to be cashed.

"They like the look and feel of real slot machines. Eventually we would like to get real slot machines in West Virginia," said Bork.

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Unlike conventional slot machines, video lottery players touch a screen or push a button to select a variety of games.

Bork said the track would like the issue of coin payouts to be dicussed in the upcoming session of the Legislature, which begins Jan. 13.

Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, said he is not sure whether a bill will be introduced, although the issue could be included in a larger proposal to allow casino gambling at the The Greenbrier resort in southern West Virginia.

"I've heard an awful lot of discussion and speculation," said Manuel.

If any bill is introduced, Manuel said he wants it to include a provision for a referendum so people can vote on it.

Manuel said he thinks it is important to let people vote on the issue because of differing opinions on gambling in Jefferson County.

Other local lawmakers could not be reached for comment.

Although county voters approved video lottery in 1996, some opponents feared the games would open the door to casino gambling and increased crime.

The track started video lottery in 1997 with 400 machines and gradually increased the number to 800. The track is authorized to have up to 1,000 machines, and should have 900 by next March, Bork said.

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