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Business is booming in W.Va.

January 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

To get inside the gaming area at Charles Town Races & Slots on Saturday, one first had to find a parking space.

After bypassing the first, second and third levels, all of which were full, drivers ended up in the open-air highest level. There, wind whipped through parked cars and trucks, nearly all of which had out-of-state license plates.

It was the same story inside.

Of the dozens of people asked to be interviewed for this story, many declined. Not a single one of the people who would speak was from West Virginia.

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Although more than 85 percent of the track's 1,100 employees are from West Virginia, 85 percent of its revenue comes from out-of-state pockets, Gov. Bob Wise said in October, when the latest addition to the track's slot machine area was finished.

Officials from Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the facility, and Charles Town Races did not return phone messages left Friday seeking comment on how slots in Maryland could affect business.

Inside the gaming area, thousands of people sat or stood, pumping quarters, nickels and dollar coins into slot machines.

Those from Maryland had mixed feelings on whether they'd stay in their home state should slot machines arrive.

Joe Howell, 69, of Mt. Airy, knew where he would prefer his money to go.

"I think they (Maryland) should have them, and the reason is I lost $200,000 and guess who got it?" he said, sitting in front of a 25-cent machine. "There's no reason to give it to West Virginia."

Janet Linton, 64, of Potomac, said she would "love it" if Maryland got slot machines, but said she would probably continue to come to Charles Town, since it's relatively close to her home.

Enjoying her first visit to Charles Town on Saturday, Linton said she won $100 in a 50-cent machine.

Although some say slots in Maryland will induce gambling, Linton disagrees. People who want to gamble are going to gamble, Linton said, no matter in which state the slots happen to be.

"It's their money, if that's the way they want to spend it," she said.

Rick Hopkins, 50, of Hagerstown, was not sure where he'd play.

"Depends. I'd probably go and try them (in Maryland.) But this is kind of close," he said.

Nevertheless, Hopkins said he favors slots in Maryland.

"I think they're losing a lot of money to places like this," he said.

Jane Helm, 45, agreed.

"If it's going for education funding, I think that would be great," she said.

She, too, said she would probably continue to play at Charles Town because of its proximity to her home in Frederick, Md.

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