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Jefferson County official concerned about effect of Md. slots

November 07, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A Jefferson County Commission member on Thursday expressed concern about how slot machine revenue to the county's government could be affected since Maryland residents on Tuesday approved legalization of slot machines in that state.

Charles Town Races & Slots has such machines and the Jefferson County Commission and towns in the county have been receiving more than $7 million a year from the games.

The track lures slot machine players from Maryland and some people who favored slots in Maryland believed it was time to approve slot machines in their state to allow it to tap into the revenue source.

Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday discussed how slot machine revenue makes up about 25 percent of the commission's budget and how Maryland's move to slot machines could affect that revenue stream.

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How much it could affect county coffers and when, however, is unclear, Commissioner Dale Manuel said.

"We'll have to deal with it. We realize there will be some impact," Manuel said.

When the commission first started receiving slot machine revenue, commissioners only used the money for building projects. That way, if the revenues ever dried up, it would be less painful on the county, Manuel said.

Now slot machine revenue is being used in a variety of ways, including salaries, Manuel said.

In some of the county's towns, slot machine revenue makes up to about 45 percent of their budgets, Manuel said.

"We're pretty much dependent on these monies," Manuel said after Thursday's meeting.

Commissioner Greg Corliss cautioned against the county overreacting to the Maryland slot machine threat.

"We need to be cautious. But it's still something out into the future," Corliss said.

Charles Town Races & Slots officials said in past years they were concerned about increasing gambling competition from nearby states and last year they asked county residents to approve table games like blackjack and roulette for the track.

But voters turned down the idea.

There was mention at Thursday's commission meeting about the track trying for a referendum again on table games next year.

In regards to a "better deal" on table games for the county, Manuel said he has little hope.

"I don't see that happening," said Manuel, referring to comments from Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, last year that voters should not approve table games for the track unless the county got a better deal.

Although Jefferson County Schools would have received about $1.5 million from table games, Doyle pointed out before the election that the state receives about $171 million from slots at Charles Town.

Charles Town Races & Slots officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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