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Track official won't debate legislator

April 26, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Jefferson County lawmaker John Doyle expressed disappointment Thursday after learning a Charles Town Races & Slots official declined to debate him on the merits of casino table games in Jefferson County.

Doyle said he thinks the decision is indicative of the track's attempt to "sneak" an election on the games past local voters.

John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Charles Town Races & Slots, defended his decision not to debate Doyle.

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Finamore said he believes debating with Doyle is not an appropriate way to get information out about table games, and the track will instead use various avenues to inform the public about the potential use of casino table games.

Doyle brought up the idea of debating track officials on the merits of table games at a Jefferson County Commission meeting two weeks ago.

Doyle, who has represented Jefferson County since winning election in 1992, asked the commission to consider pushing back the date of a county referendum on the games to give county residents more time to learn about the issue.

The commission declined to move the election from the planned June 9 date, partly because they believed they had already reached a deal with the track about the date.

Later in that meeting, Doyle, an opponent of table games, said he wanted to have a series of debates with a track official on table games. Ameet Patel, the track's assistant general manager, said at the meeting that he believed track officials would be open to the idea.

Finamore said in a letter sent to Doyle that he did not want to debate Doyle since neither he nor Doyle were a candidate in the June 9 election.

"The table game referendum is not a personal issue between you and me, or between you and Penn National," Finamore said in the letter.

Doyle, a Democrat representing Jefferson County in the House of Delegates, said Thursday he believes a series of debates between he and Finamore would be a good way for county residents to learn about all aspects of table games.

Doyle said he thinks Finamore's decision is indicative of the track's interest in "sneaking this referendum by" voters.

"I'm very disappointed in their response," Doyle said.

Finamore said the issue of table games is not a mystery to voters, Finamore said.

County residents are well-informed about the issue through news accounts of the games so far and will learn more in coming weeks, Finamore said.

"This issue has been going on for years. I do think there is a good basic knowledge of what's involved," Finamore said.

Tracks in the state have said they wanted to have table games like blackjack and roulette to 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.

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