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500 more slots approved for Charles Town

September 19, 2000

500 more slots approved for Charles Town



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - After local elected officials and a police chief spoke in favor of the games Tuesday, the West Virginia Lottery Commission approved Charles Town Race's request it be allowed to increase the number of slot machines at the track from 1,500 to 2,000.

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The renovations and installation of the new slots represent a more than $9 million investment and will create more than 125 jobs, Charles Town Races President Jim Buchanan said.

He said the jobs pay more than $10 an hour, depending on the position.

During the meeting in Charleston, W.Va., Buchanan showed the Lottery Commission video footage of busy gambling areas at the track and of the full parking lots.

"We're extremely pleased that we will be able to expand our operation to meet the overwhelming demand that we've experienced all summer," Buchanan said.

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A number of local officials showed up at Tuesday's Lottery Commission meeting to show support for adding slot machines.

Speaking in favor of the machines were Ranson Mayor David Hamill, Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton, Jefferson County Commissioner Dean Hockensmith and Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge.

"The question before you is simple," said Betty Martin, a representative of the mutuel tellers union at Charles Town Races. "Should Charles Town Races be allowed to expand their slot machines?"

"The answer is yes," she said.

The Lottery Commission held a public hearing in Charles Town on Aug. 25 to gather public input on the proposed slot machine expansion.

The panel delayed making a decision after Jefferson County resident Paul Burke pointed out that a legal notice announcing the hearing did not say when the hearing would be held.

The Lottery Commission also decided to extend the public comment period until Sept. 15.

During that period, the Lottery Commission received 95 letters in support of the expansion and five letters against it, John Musgrave, the Lottery Commission's executive director, said.

Supporters of the expansion said the machines will continue to boost tourism, increase local revenues and help horse racing.

There have been opponents to any slot machine expansion, including local pastor Mike Withem, who has expressed concerns about a 19 percent increase in the county's crime rate since slot machines went into operation at the track.

Withem said he also is concerned about a statewide program being set up to help people with gambling problems.

"We're just now beginning to see the first fruits of the negative side. I think it is apparent there is a negative impact," Withem said Tuesday night.

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