Jefferson County Commission sets June vote on table games

April 06, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The Jefferson County Commission agreed Thursday to hold a special election June 9 to allow Jefferson County residents to decide whether casino table games should be allowed at Charles Town Races & Slots.

The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the election after a track official said he believed June 9 is a good day because it is a Saturday and many residents will be off from work.

John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Charles Town Races & Slots, said, "We're ready to go."

The decision to hold the election June 9 comes a week after the issue was last discussed with the commission.

Last week, Finamore went over with commissioners the details of a bill recently passed in the Legislature that allows racetrack counties to have table games that include roulette, blackjack and craps.


Finamore said Thursday that the track will pay for the cost of the special election, and Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said her office will offer early voting from May 18 to June 6. There will be no early voting on Saturdays or on Memorial Day, Maghan said.

Maghan said she does not know how much the election will cost because she is working on details with track officials.

"It's just a yes or no ballot," Maghan said.

Although the commission voted for the election, Commission President Frances Morgan said she wanted to make sure that June 9 gives people who are opposed to the casino table games time to prepare for the election.

Finamore reiterated what he said last week that track officials have been conducting a telephone poll of county residents asking them about casino table games. The results of the poll have been supportive of table games, Finamore said.

Tracks in the state have said they wanted to have table games to remain competitive with gambling operations in other states. If Jefferson County voters allow table games at Charles Town Races & Slots, the games would join about 4,200 slot machines at the track.

Jefferson County government and the county's five towns are expected to enjoy about $8 million a year in slot machine revenue this year from the track, and the addition of table games at the track would increase that revenue stream by about $850,000 a year, according to Lottery Commission projections.

Charles Town would start with 75 table games, most likely in the first quarter of 2008, Finamore said. They would offer blackjack, craps, roulette and newer card games like Caribbean stud and three-card poker.

Traditional poker games such as Texas Hold 'Em would be added later, after the casino's new 153-room hotel opens. That could happen by July 2008, he said.

Eleven states have casinos, but if the referenda pass, West Virginia would join Iowa as the only other state to have slots, table games and racing at a single location.

Table games would generate about 500 more jobs at the track, which currently employs 1,300 people, Finamore said.

Current track employees would be given the first opportunity to apply for table game jobs, and the track would set up a "dealers school" to train workers to run the games, Finamore said.

Table games special election

What: A special election will be held in Jefferson County for county residents to determine whether casino table games should be allowed at Charles Town Races & Slots.

When: June 9. Early voting will be offered May 18 to June 6 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. No early voting will take place on Saturdays or on Memorial Day.

Where: Jefferson County Courthouse

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