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Ranson hits $1 million in slots cash this year

May 18, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. - Slot machine revenue from Charles Town Races & Slots continues to funnel millions of dollars into local government.

With a little more than six weeks to go in the fiscal year, the City of Ranson has already raked in a little more than $1 million this year, allowing the city to purchase new vehicles for its public works department, meet increased sewage treatment costs and boost police officer salaries, city officials said.

The cities of Ranson and Charles Town hit the $1 million slot machine revenue mark last year just before the fiscal year ended, said track spokesman Roger Ramey.

The Jefferson County Commission receives 2 percent of the track's net terminal income.

After the county receives $912,000 in a given year, additional slot machine revenue going to the government is split evenly between the commission and the county's five municipalities, county officials have said.

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This year, the commission is budgeted to receive $4 million in slot machine revenue, and the figure stood at about $3.8 million as of May 13, said Chris Bruno, director of finance at the track.

The slot machine money distributed to the towns is based on population.

Ranson is the largest city in the county with a population of about 3,800, followed by Charles Town, W.Va., which has a population of roughly 3,200. This year, the City of Charles Town has received $998,049 in slot machine revenue since May 13 and has used the money for capital improvements and to help run the city's departments, Mayor Peggy Smith said.

The budget for the Charles Town Police Department is about $1.5 million and slot machine money is used to support that, too, Smith said.

Smith said the slot machine money is vital to the city because it does not have the tax base it needs to run the city.

"We're very, very thankful we receive this lottery money," Smith said.

Shepherdstown has received $412,677 as of May 13, Bolivar has received $358,674 and Harpers Ferry has received $105,407, Bruno said.

The track's fiscal year ends June 30.

Ranson City Council member Duke Pierson said the slot machine money going to his town has helped it recover from the loss of a Dixie-Narco plant in 1991.

Dixie-Narco operated a vending machine plant in Ranson that employed hundreds of people and when it left town, so did about $120,000 in annual tax revenue to the city, Pierson said.

"We struggled as a city, but now we have recovered," Pierson said.

Pierson said the slot machine money has been used to improve city services to residents and prepare the city for population growth.

Ranson has annexed thousands of acres in recent years and city officials have been preparing for growth in those new areas by building new city council chambers, expanding the city's police department and purchasing new equipment for city workers.

City Manager Dave Mills said slot machine money has also allowed the town to pave every street and acquire a building to be used as a town civic center on Second Avenue.

"It's been a big benefit to the community," Mills said.

The city has used its slot machine money to purchase a new garbage truck, boost salaries for officers at the Ranson Police Department and fund police car purchases, Pierson said.

Charles Town Races & Slots has grossed more than $370 million in slot machine revenue this fiscal year, according to the West Virginia Lottery Commission's Web site. The amount of slot machine revenue kept by the track stands at about $152 million after the money that goes to the state, county government and other areas is figured in, Bruno said.

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