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Some residents say 'Hit me' for table games at Charles Town

March 10, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Paul Horn enthusiastically embraced the idea of casino-style table games at Charles Town Races & Slots Wednesday.

"I knew this would eventually happen," said Horn, a professional poker player and owner of Filly's Bar and Grill along Fifth Avenue behind the track.

Horn said he supports the idea of having table games at the track, believing it will bring an "elite crowd" to the track and help the state stay competitive with other states such as Pennsylvania, which is poised to turn on thousands of slot machines this year.

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Excited about the new possibilities in town, Horn has also started turning his sights toward his business, saying he plans to redesign the establishment using a poker theme.

"I think it's great," Horn said.

Other local residents joined Horn in their support for table games at the track, a possibility that is being studied by state lawmakers.

Two bills introduced in the state Legislature would allow racetrack host counties such as Jefferson County to hold elections on whether table games, such as blackjack, should be allowed at the tracks.

Ann Kessel of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said she would vote for table games at the local thoroughbred track as long as a "reasonable distribution" of the money from the games is made to the local community.

Kessel has lived in Shepherdstown for four years, and before that she lived in Wisconsin, where Indian tribes run casinos that feature table games as well as slot machines.

The table games allowed the Indians to raise money for services they needed, Kessel said.

Jefferson County resident Dabney Chapman said he doesn't see where table games would hurt. Since the track already has slot machines, Chapman is taking the attitude of "in for a penny, in for a pound."

Besides, Dabney said, he "likes a little poker" himself sometimes.

Other county residents were not so sure.

Rachel Barb said she would rather see more family-oriented recreational activities for county residents rather than something that could be addictive for some.

"I know the racetrack brings in a lot of money, but do we really want that money? I think it's a horrible idea," said Barb, a Shepherd University student who hopes to remain in the area and teach school after she graduates.

"It's not good, it's just not good," said a man as he walked into the Shepherdstown post office.

Patrons at the racetrack on Wednesday were savoring the thought of table games at the oval.

Shirley Bailey said he lived in New Jersey for 47 years and always enjoyed his years there because of the table games available in that state.

Bailey, who lives in Front Royal, Va., joked that he sometimes considers moving back to New Jersey just so he can enjoy table games.

The mention of Jefferson County possibly getting table games got Bailey thinking.

"Oh boy, that would be an ideal thing," said Bailey, who said he visits the local track about twice a month.

Dale Wills assumed the state had already made that jump.

With all the additions that have been constructed at Charles Town Races & Slots, Wills said he expected to see table games when he walked into the facility Wednesday.

"That's the first thing I asked when I came in: Where's the craps tables?" said Wills, of Altoona, Pa.

Representatives from the state's four racetracks descended on the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., last week to urge lawmakers to legalize casino-style table games.

Several hundred racetrack workers, executives and local government officials rallied for the bills and advocates said they believed the games will stem the loss of gamblers and revenue to other states.

Eastern Panhandle lawmakers had mixed reactions last week to the plan, saying they may support them depending on how revenues from the games are spent and how state residents are allowed to vote on the games.

Sen. John Unger, who is opposed to the proposals, said Wednesday he does not think either of the table games bills have moved in the Legislature.

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