Charles Town to Pursue Vote on Table Games

Charles Town Races & Slots intends to seek table games via referendum.

Penn National Gaming, Inc. announced Aug. 6 it will request a special December referendum for table games at Charles Town Races & Slots.

Under West Virginia law, approval by county voters is necessary for racetracks to add table games such as blackjack, craps, and poker. The other three tracks in the state offer table games.

All four have video lottery terminals, which also were approved by county referendum.

PNGI said it will file the request in Jefferson County to have the election Dec. 5. The company must pay for the election, which could cost about $100,000, according to published reports.

“Throughout its ownership, Penn National has worked closely with local officials, the county development office, residents, and the horsemen to re-establish Charles Town as an outstanding Thoroughbred racetrack facility, a quality entertainment center, and a significant economic contributor to the region,” PNGI chairman and chief executive officer Peter Carlino said in a statement. “Residents of Jefferson County have benefited from the partnership that has developed between the facility and the county, and will gain further from the installation of table games.

Carlino said passage of referendums in counties that include Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort and two Greyhound tracks has “clearly demonstrated that such legislation will further boost tax revenue for schools and needed community infrastructure improvements. In addition, local residents will benefit from the 600 new jobs we expect to add based on continued enhancements to Charles Town, including the placement of table games.”

During a PNGI earnings teleconference July 29, Carlino said a push for table games at Charles Town looked “encouraging,” but he said the company wasn’t prepared to offer a date. He did say full casino-style gambling, not just VLTs, is preferred.

“Look, we prefer full casinos because it’s what our customers want,” Carlino said. “There is a silly divide between slots and table games.”

A 2007 referendum on table games at Charles Town failed. The Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which has local clout, took a neutral position on the vote.

Charles Town management and the Charles Town HBPA have been at odds for years, but as part of a contract signed earlier this year, horsemen said they would support the endeavor.

Carlino, in his Aug. 6 statement, said: “We are committed to working with all involved parties to achieve this goal.”

In June, the West Virginia legislature amended existing law to double the percentage of table games revenue kept by local governments in Jefferson County. The percentage was a sticking point in the 2007 election, and several area legislators pushed for the change.

Purses and breed development at Mountaineer receive 4.5% of table games revenue. Horsemen said recently they believe the percentage needs to be revisited and increased.