Jefferson County lawmaker wants to delay vote on table games

April 13, 2007

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A Jefferson County lawmaker said Thursday that he believes a county referendum on casino table games should be delayed as much as two weeks to give county residents more time to learn about the issue.

The Jefferson County Commission declined Del. John Doyle's request to move the election from June 9 and told Doyle they did not feel it was fair to change the date after agreeing to it with officials from Charles Town Races & Slots.

Doyle, D-Jefferson, said the casino table games bill passed in the recent session of the Legislature allows a county referendum on the games to be held up to 90 days after it is requested by a racetrack.

Charles Town Races & Slots officials asked the commission a week ago to have the election June 9. Track officials requested the date April 5, which is 65 days before the election.


Waiting 90 days would put the election on July 4, which Doyle said would not be appropriate. He suggested June 23.

"Let's remember that the other counties gave the entire 90-day window," Doyle said.

Mountaineer Racetrack & Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va., Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center in Wheeling, W.Va., and Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in Nitro, W.Va., also have set a date of June 9 in their respective counties for a local referendum on whether to allow table games.

Although a county election official said Thursday that it is not too late to change the election date, Commissioners Rusty Morgan and Dale Manuel said they thought it would be difficult to change it.

"We do have a deal," Morgan said. "I find it difficult to tamper with that."

A track official at Thursday's commission meeting said county residents have several weeks to examine the table games issue.

"They can decide what's right and what's best for the county," said Ameet Patel, the track's assistant general manager.

Doyle said he is an opponent of casino table games, and he said after the meeting that there are several reasons he is against them.

Doyle said there is an attempt to make other racing facilities in the state destination points with table games, but those areas have the highway systems to accommodate large numbers of tourists. Jefferson County's road systems are smaller and are not as well equipped to handle the people who would come to the "glitzy entertainment district" the track is proposing as part of its planned table games operation, Doyle said.

Doyle said he doesn't know who else might be opposed to table games, and opponents are "just starting to find each other in the dark."

Doyle said during the meeting that he would like to have a series of debates on table games with a track representative. Patel said the track would be open to the idea.

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

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue:A referendum will be held June 9 in Jefferson County, W.Va., to determine whether Charles Town Races & Slots should be allowed to have casino table games.

What's new: Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, told the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday that he believes the referendum should be delayed to give voters more time to learn about the issue. The commissioners declined to change the election date.

What's next: Doyle, who opposes the games, said he wants an opportunity to debate the issue of casino table games with a representative from the track. Ameet Patel, the track's assistant general manager, said he would be open to the idea.

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