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Ranson mayor says city's behind table games

July 27, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A group of local elected officials, including three members of the Jefferson County Commission, met Wednesday and discussed taking a position on casino table games for Charles Town Races & Slots.

At the council of governments meeting Wednesday at the Charles Town Visitors Center, members discussed a possible resolution on casino table games. Ranson Mayor David Hamill said the city wants to support the games and he discussed in a letter to the commission a possible resolution in support of table games.

Last month, officials from Charles Town Races & Slots discussed casino table games at a commission meeting, arguing that they need the games to stay ahead of gambling competition in other states.

A bill was considered in the Legislature earlier this year to allow casino table games at the state's four racetracks, but it was criticized by lawmakers and other officials because it proposed to take away the rights of Jefferson County voters to control gaming at the track through elections.

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Although track officials defended the referendum language in the table games bill as a way to protect their investment in their gaming operations, they said they would consider different provisions for recall elections.

John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the local thoroughbred track, told commission members last month that track owners would consider supporting casino table games legislation that would allow county voters to put the games up for a vote in five years if they are initially approved by voters.

Commission member Dale Manuel has said he believes that if casino table games are allowed in the state, Jefferson County Schools should get a share of funding from the games at the local track to help it deal with funding constraints.

Manuel emphasized again Wednesday that local schools should receive some table games revenue.

"The door is there. We got to walk through it," Manuel said.

Other officials attending Wednesday's meeting included Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith, Jefferson County Administrator Leslie Smith and Ranson City Manager David Mills.

County Commission member Jim Surkamp said he did not attend the meeting because three or more members of the commission cannot meet outside of their regular meetings and "deliberate to (a) decision."

County Commission President Greg Corliss and Hamill said they believed there was nothing wrong with having the meeting.

City elected officials and county commission members have been meeting as a "council of governments" to discuss issues of interest to them.

Commission member Rusty Morgan said much of the discussions center around planning for growth in the region. Corliss added that bringing governments together on such topics "makes a lot of sense. There's been a problem for a long time with lack of good communication," Corliss said.

Corliss disagreed with Surkamp's assertion that the commission could end up deliberating to make a decision about a table games resolution. Corliss said the council of governments was only having a general discussion about a resolution and that any action on a resolution would take place when council of governments members take the issue back to their respective governments.

Hamill said he thinks the council of governments is beneficial for the towns and the commission and he said during the meeting that he wants to do what he can to make it successful.

Hamill said after the meeting that if any one has any problems about the group, "speak up and we'll address it."

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