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Legislators stump for table games

June 10, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. -- The addition of table games at Charles Town (W.Va.) Races & Slots could generate about $129 million annually, according to state projections released by Jefferson County lawmakers at a public meeting Wednesday at Jefferson High School.

With the passage of House Bill 102 earlier this month, Jefferson County's share of the additional gaming revenue would be about $6.4 million if voters approved table games, which include blackjack and roulette, according to the projections.

Yet, state Sen. Herb Snyder and delegates John Doyle and Tiffany Lawrence acknowledged more adjustments to the law are needed to address the concerns of horsemen at the racetrack, particularly with how money for the breeders and purse funds is allocated.

In addition to the table games bill, Doyle, D-Jefferson, noted there were a number of areas in state law that are unfair to the horsemen, but the 57th District delegate said Wednesday he would support the addition of table games at Charles Town under the new guidelines set forth in HB 102 that passed in a special session.

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In addition to the money for Jefferson County and its five municipalities, HB 102 would give additional money to the three counties in West Virginia that already have table games at their racetracks if Jefferson County voters approve the gaming expansion at Charles Town.

In 2007, county voters defeated table games, and Doyle said they made the right decision then.

"I think now, the right decision is to pass them," Doyle said. "I will support them when it comes up again."

Snyder, D-Jefferson/Berkeley, said he had a great deal of confidence in the state's revenue projections, which he believes are "very conservative."

At the meeting, Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel noted the county likely would have to make a $250,000 to $300,000 budget revision this year because of a decrease in video lottery revenue generated by slot machines at Charles Town Races & Slots.

However, table games would have generated another $1.2 million for Jefferson County, in addition to about $5 million it now receives from slots.

If voters approve table games, the county's five municipalities would divide another $1.2 million and the school board is projected to net about $3.8 million, based on the projections.

Lawrence, D-Jefferson, who works at Charles Town Races & Slots, said 40 percent of all gaming revenue at the track came from Maryland, where slots have been approved, but have yet to go online.

While not an advocate of gambling, Snyder said he anticipates the addition of slots in Maryland would create significant competition without the addition of table games at Charles Town.

Racetrack owner Penn National Gaming Inc. has not set a deadline to decide whether to pursue a second referendum on table games, John Finamore, the company's senior vice president for regional operations, said last week.

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