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Charles Town Race Track seeks 'real' table games

April 24, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Charles Town Races & Slots could offer an electronic version of casino table games and implement them now without voter approval, but the Jefferson County, W.Va., racing facility is not interested in the games, a track official said Monday.

Pennsylvania's gambling regulators last week approved a new slot machine that mimics table games, and gaming experts say the machines offer casinos in states like Pennsylvania and Delaware a way to circumvent state bans on table games that involve a human dealer.

Experts also say the machines are a cost-effective way of offering that type of gambling.

John Finamore, senior vice president of Regional Operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Charles Town Races & Slots, said he believes electronic table games were approved by the West Virginia Lottery Commission before the casino table games bill was passed in the recent session of the Legislature.

Finamore said it is his understanding that no local referendum is required for the local track to have electronic table games.

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Finamore said the electronic table games are an interesting way to offer the games.

However, if track patrons have the ability to choose between an electronic table game or the traditional table game with a human dealer, they would probably chose the latter, Finamore said.

"The technology is pretty neat. But it's not the real deal," Finamore said of the electronic table games.

"We're putting all our efforts into getting the real thing approved," Finamore said.

The West Virginia Legislature has approved legislation that allows the state's four racetracks - including Charles Town Races & Slots - to have casino table games.

The tracks will have referendums on the games in their respective counties June 9.

State Lottery Commission spokeswoman Libby White said she needed to check some details involving electronic table games, including when the state approved the games.

Electronic table games have not been used in the state, and White said she did not believe the games would be as attractive to patrons when they can play traditional table games.

Although Pennsylvania bans traditional casino table games that are run by a human dealer, a machine that offers the games can be legal if the odds are random and one player's decisions do not affect another player's odds.

In one version of the electronic games, players sit in a half-circle in front of two 42-inch plasma TVs, one of which shows the dealer and the other a tabletop view of the cards. The players each have a console and take turns playing.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has only approved the electronic version of blackjack, but it is believed that with that approval, the game's other programs that offer Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold'em could be approved quickly, Pennsylvania officials said.

Officials at Charles Town Races & Slots have cited increasing gambling competition from areas like Pennsylvania as reason to offer casino table games like blackjack and roulette at the thoroughbred oval, but Finamore said he did not believe Pennsylvania's move toward electronic table games would be a threat to Charles Town's business.

"I'd say if you have the real game, you have the competitive advantage," Finamore said.

Even if Jefferson County voters do not approve table games June 9, the local track would have electronic table games to fall back on, Finamore said.

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