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Gambling and referendums

February 03, 2006

West Virginia lawmakers are right to insist that approval of any additional gambling devices at Charles Town Races & Slots not remove protections for horse racing there.

As one delegate noted, horse racing not only employs many people, but is also gives land owners an incentive to preserve open space.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, told The Herald-Mail he opposes the bill because if residents of any county approve so-called table games - blackjack and roulette - they would lose the right to petition gambling to referendum in the future.

Tabb said he believes Jefferson County citizens must retain that right to protect horse racing.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said he feared that at some point in the future, track operators might decide to eliminate horse racing because it is less lucrative than other forms of gambling.

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Horse racing is an important part of the Eastern Panhandle's economy, but there is another reason to retain the right to referendum.

If in the future, the citizens of Jefferson County decide that gambling is harmful to a significant number of local residents, they should be able to vote it out.

Having that power in place is a big incentive for the track's owners to make sure that gambling at Charles Town remains an amusement for all, instead of an economic tragedy for many.

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