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WV Senate Passes Table Games Bill

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia senators have passed a racetrack table games bill.

Tuesday's 20-to-13 vote marks the first time both the Senate and the House of Delegates have approved such legislation. But the House must now agree to several changes made by senators.

The bill would allow residents of Hancock, Jefferson, Kanawha and Ohio counties to vote on whether to permit casino games at their tracks.

The House and Senate differ over how to distribute the potential proceeds. The Senate favors county and local governments. The House would give more to race prize purses.

Supporters say table games mean jobs for hard-hit areas like the Northern Panhandle. The tracks also say they need blackjack, roulette and craps to compete with racetracks in other states.

But foes oppose increasing the state's reliance on gambling. They also believe it's unconstitutional to put table games under the jurisdiction of the state Lottery Commission.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL (as passed by the Senate):

VOTER APPROVAL
- Each racetrack county would vote on permitting the games at its track.
- At a track's request, a county commission would put the question on the next primary or general election ballot.
- Tracks could request a special election, but could have to foot the bill.
- If approved, at least 5 percent of county registered voters could petition to reconsider after five years.
- If rejected, the county could vote again after two years.

RACETRACK TABLE GAMES FUND
- Funded by 35 percent annual tax on gross revenues.

GROSS FUND DISTRIBUTIONS
- 2.5 percent for race prize purses; House approved 6 percent.
- 2 percent split between horse and dog breeding funds.
- 1 percent to racetrack counties, proportional to each track's contributions.
- 2 percent to racetrack municipalities.
- An additional 0.5 percent to Wheeling and Nitro for related services.
- 3 percent of revenues for Lottery Commission to administer and enforce table games regulations, including up to $500,000 for Compulsive Gambling Treatment Fund.
- Remaining portion becomes net fund distributions.

NET FUND DISTRIBUTIONS
- 76 percent to new State Debt Reduction Fund; House had set 79 percent.
- 10 percent divided among remaining 51 counties; House approved 5 percent.
- 10 percent divided among remaining 203 municipalities; House approved 5 percent.
- 4 percent for track employee pensions; House version had 1 percent.

COMMUNITY BASED SERVICE FUND
- Funded by $1.5 million initial license fee from each track.
- Also receives $2.5 million annual renewal fee from each track.
- Annual fee would double for any track without a major (150-plus rooms) hotel.

COMMUNITY FUND DISTRIBUTIONS
- In-home care from Bureau of Senior Services.


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