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Table games passes in Jefferson County

December 05, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- Table games are coming to Charles Town.

Jefferson County voters on Saturday approved the addition of the games at Charles Town Races & Slots by a 3-2 margin with all 32 precincts reporting, according to complete but unofficial results.

Of the 10,622 votes that were cast, 6,279 (59 percent) were in favor of adding poker, blackjack, roulette and craps to the more than 5,000 slot machines at the thouroughbred racetrack.

"It's a good day," local school board president Peter Dougherty said. "We will never have to ask voters to borrow money for school construction again. It will also free up money to give raises to our employees."

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Officials have said tax revenues from the 85 table games that would be available in June would result in about $4 million a year for the local school system, and the Jefferson County government and the county's five incorporated towns each would receive nearly $1.3 million. 

At the oppostion's headquarters on Washington Street, members of VoteNoTableGames.org talked about their defeat Saturday.

"We were definitely outspent," said Debbie Royalty of Summit Point, W.Va. "I hope that Penn National (Gaming Inc.) willl keep the promise they made now that they have won."

Before Saturday's vote, Charles Town Races & Slots blitzed the county with newspaper and television ads. Mailings promoting the added revenues the games would bring to the school system and to county and local governments were highly touted in fliers and commercials.

Public school teachers, who were promised raises if the games passed, supported them in promotional mailings.

Support for the games came in endorsements from such organizations as the Horsemen's Benovolent and Protective Association, Chamber of Commerce, Development Authority, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Gateway New Economy Council. 

About 1,500 green signs urging voters to support the games lined the county's roadways, far outnumbering the 300 white "Vote No" signs posted by VoteNoTableGames.org, the grass-roots effort that opposed table games.

The Rev. M. Douglas Fraim, pastor of Bolivar United Methodist Church and president of the opposition group, said this week he believed the members' efforts "were going pretty good as a whole" in spite of the huge sums of money Charles Town Races & Slots was spending.

"They have a lot more money but we've been out talking to the people and votes mean more than money," Fraim said.

Charles Town Races & Slots General Manager Al Britton said before Saturday's vote that he felt better than he did in 2007 when the games were defeated 56 percent to 44 percent.

"We did a better job of getting the facts out there," Britton said.

Britton said from the beginning that officials at Penn National Gaming Inc., owners of Charles Town Races & Slots, would not seek a referendum this year unless they felt the community would support the games this time.  

Track officials claim table games were needed to offset competition from planned slots parlors opening in Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

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