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Table games money might come upshort

August 20, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The $1 million promised to Jefferson County after the introduction of table games at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races could be in jeopardy because of a "misinterpretation" of the legislation that set up the funding, county officials said Friday.

The Jefferson County Commissioners and the county's five municipalities are supposed to share the money, with half going to the commissioners and half to the municipalities based on population.

"We've already budgeted our $500,000, and the municipalities are in the same boat," County Commissioner Patsy Noland said.

State Sen. Herb Snyder said Friday that he is "very optimistic" that everything will be worked out with the West Virginia Lottery Commission, the agency that controls casino money.

Snyder called the problem a "glitch."

It came about because of the way the law governing table games licensing was written, Snyder said. The money was to be released to the county as the fiscal year began July 1, after the casino paid $1.5 million for the table games license, Snyder said.

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Casino officials applied for and paid for the license at 12:01 a.m. July 1.

Casino officials could have received a license before June 30, but the games were not ready and all of the dealers had not yet been trained.

"It was a wise, prudent business decision (for the casino) to wait until after July 1," Snyder said.

Otherwise, they would have paid $1.5 million for a license that would have expired June 30, he said.

The issue surfaced last month when lottery commission lawyers interpreted the law as saying the county would not be eligible for the money until the beginning of fiscal 2011-12, not the current fiscal year that began July 1, Snyder said.

The lawyers issued their opinion without talking to anyone involved, he said.

Snyder said he has spoken with state lottery officials who said they would work with him to solve the problem. He meets next week with Virgil Helton, secretary of the state tax and revenue division, which controls lottery funds. Helton is on vacation this week, Snyder said.

"I believe we can settle this without litigation," he said.

The Jefferson County Board of Education is receiving its promised $2.4 million and is not tied to the problem affecting the county, Snyder said.

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