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Table games revenue not lost nor delayed

$1.7 million will be distributed this year in monthly installments

August 25, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- The $1 million in table games revenues that Jefferson County officials thought last week might have been lost will instead be distributed as $1.7 million.

State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson/Berkeley, said Friday that the county's share of table games profits at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races would not begin until July 1, 2011. He blamed the delay on a "misinterpretation" of the law that set up the revenue stream by West Virginia Lottery Commission lawyers.

The Jefferson County Commission's half of the estimated $1 million windfall was budgeted for the 2010-11 fiscal year that began July 1. The other $500,000 was to be split by the county's five municipalities based on their populations.

Snyder said Wednesday the issue was resolved Tuesday when he spoke with John Musgrave, state lottery commission director, and Virgil Helton, secretary of the West Virginia Tax and Revenue Department.

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At issue was Senate Bill 718, known as "the better deal bill," a Snyder-sponsored measure passed in April 2009. It said table games revenues would be distributed in the fiscal year following the date when the casino obtained its $1.5 million table games license. The casino got its license at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.

Lottery commission lawyers interpreted the law to mean the money would start to flow beginning July 1, 2011.

Snyder said Musgrave and Helton agreed with him that the attorneys were wrong. The money will be released this year, Snyder said.

The money is distributed in monthly installments, officials said.

Sandra Slusher McDonald, deputy administrator for Jefferson County, said Wednesday that the county, as well as the municipalities, would now budget for $850,000 in table games revenue instead of $500,000. The difference, Snyder said, stems from the fact that casino and state officials underestimated how well the table games in Charles Town would do in their first year of operation.

"They're doing better than expected," Snyder said. "It could even be more."

Al Britton, general manager at the casino, said he was pleased with the higher-income expectations.

"Hopefully, we can sustain it," he said.

Wednesday's news of the funding reinstatement has no effect on the $2.4 million in table games revenues earmarked each year for the Jefferson County Board of Education.

In addition to table games revenue, the county commission receives about $4 million a year from the more than 5,000 slot machines at the casino. The municipalities' share of slots revenue is $3.5 million, Britton said.

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