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Table games revenue bill gathers steam

March 26, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A bill that would increase the local share of table games revenue for Jefferson County if voters there approve the gaming expansion at Charles Town Races & Slots has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Herb Snyder said Thursday night.

If Senate Bill 718 is passed by lawmakers and table games are approved at Charles Town, Jefferson County and the other three counties that have racetracks in the state each would be able to retain 5 percent of the revenue generated, Snyder said.

"This is truly a better deal," Snyder said of the added local share, which he believes might be enough to sway county residents to vote for table games. A referendum on the issue was defeated in 2007 after state lawmakers adopted legislation that gave counties a 3 percent share.

If table games are approved for Charles Town Races & Slots, Jefferson County's share of the new gaming revenue would be divided among the board of education (3 percent), county commission (1 percent) and Jefferson County's five municipalities (1 percent), Snyder said.

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State officials have conservatively estimated the board of education's share would be about $4.7 million for the first year, and the 1 percent share for the county and the municipalities would amount to about $2.1 million each, Snyder said.

Snyder said Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, approached him last Friday about introducing a version of the bill in the Senate. House Bill 3258 is pending in the House Judiciary Committee, according to the Legislature's Office of Reference & Information.

"This was his project," said Snyder, referring to Doyle's past opposition to table games because he believed a better deal could be had.

While on second reading in the Senate, SB 718 still must be considered by the Senate Finance Committee and pass through the House of Delegates. But Snyder is optimistic lawmakers will pass the bill because it has the potential to generate a large amount of revenue for the state.

"This is the only bill (pending in the legislature) with any large revenue in it for the state," Snyder said.

Charles Town officials said in February they had no plans to ask voters to approve a referendum for table games at the track.

In the 2007 referendum, 56 percent of those who cast ballots voted against table games. When a referendum is held on table games, the matter cannot be placed before the voters again for two years.

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