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Lawmaker changes stand on table games

November 28, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

o Jefferson Co. residents to vote on table games

o Racetrack officials: Table games would bring jobs to Jefferson County

o Measuring impact part of table games equation

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- In the yet-to-be-written history of table games in West Virginia, Del. John Doyle arguably deserves more than a footnote or passing reference.

The 67-year-old Jefferson County lawmaker, skewered more than two years ago for his booming opposition to allowing blackjack, roulette, craps and other casino games at Charles Town Races & Slots, now is an advocate for them.

At least for now.

"Whatever jobs are (created), I think are fine -- as a bridge," Doyle said. "But ... the only purpose of a bridge is to get you across it ... so we had best use this time to go after more high-tech jobs for Jefferson County. And I argue that kind of economic development actually will ease the situation in terms of growth because it will reduce the traffic if we have people working here rather than driving 40 miles to Dulles airport or someplace else like that."

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Doyle said he previously opposed table games because he felt the local community's percentage of the new gaming revenue that was specified in previous legislation was not enough.

"As a result of Jefferson County's principled stand, the Legislature agreed to increase the percentage, not only for Jefferson County, but for the other three counties, and this additional money comes at the expense of the money that would have gone to the state," Doyle said. "The money for Jefferson has been doubled from 2.5 percent of gross table revenue to 5 percent ... I believe that is a fair percentage and I am now in favor of table games."

"There is no better deal if we turn this down," Doyle said of the percentage adjustments that lawmakers approved earlier this year. "I do think if we pass it, we will have created ... a more positive relationship with state government, and I think it's possible to get better treatment in other areas, but only if we pass it."

Now serving his 10th term in the House, Doyle said he wasn't gaining anything personally from his current support of table games, but he is hoping to commandeer some of the new revenue, if table games passes, for Shepherd University, his alma mater.

When lawmakers passed "the better deal bill," the West Virginia Lottery Commission wanted an extra 1 percent of table games revenue from all four of the racetracks for administration, Doyle said.

While many lawmakers didn't think the agency needed it, Doyle said they compromised and agreed to let money go to the lottery commission for two years.

"It is, at the moment, up in the air what will happen to that 1 percent after the two-year period," Doyle said.

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