Tuesday, August 21, 2007

W.Va. county narrowly approves adding table games to slots at racetrack; foe seeks recount

A dog-racing track near Charleston, W.Va., which already has slot machines, hopes to add casino table games following apparent, narrow approval by voters in a countywide referendum -- the third and last such vote in the Mountain State this year, and part of a regional trend that could encourage casinos in Ohio and Kentucky.

The outcome of the Aug. 11 referendum was in doubt for another week, as a recanvass widened the 33-vote margin to 343. The final tally was "23,192 in favor of allowing poker, craps, roulette and other casino-style games at Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center, and 22,849 against," reported Tara Tuckwiller of The Charleston Gazette. (Read more) Opponents split on a recount; the West Virginia Family Foundation said it wouldn't change the results, but the West Virginia Council of Churches said it would pay for a recount, reports Mike Waterhouse of WSAZ-TV. (Read more)

The state's four tracks, which have had slots for several years, won legislative approval for table games this year, after Pennsylvania authorized slots statewide and Maryland continued to discuss allowing slots at tracks. The only West Virginia county to reject table games was prosperous Jefferson, at the state's eastern tip. The other two approvals came in the Northern Panhandle, close to Pennsylvania.

The expansion of gaming in the two states is expected to increase pressure for it in Ohio, where voters have twice rejected casinos, and Kentucky, where Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear is pushing for a statewide referendum and leading in polls against Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher. After Beshear won the primary, the governor dropped his hands-off stance on the issue and said he would fight casinos. This week he launched a television ad campaign built around a recent tour he made to states with casinos.

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