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West Virginia voters went to cast the votes on the expansion of casino gambling to include table games in two different West Virginia counties on June 9. Ohio County, which includes Wheeling, WVA, overwhelmingly approved the expansion while voters of Jefferson County, which includes Charles Town, voted to deny the expansion.
With all 30 counties reporting, voters rejected the table games options for Charles Town Race & Slots 56% to 44%. The defeat means that Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming Inc. must wait two years before putting the issue before voters again.
Penn National Executive John Finamore said, “We are obviously disappointed with the results, but we look forward to continuing to work with state, local and community officials in order to find a way to keep Charles Town Races & Slots competitive as gaming continues to expand in nearby states.”
Kevin McCoy, director of the Christian group of West Virginia Family Foundation, was thrilled to hear that Penn National conceded defeat, calling it “excellent news.”
Ohio County’s approval makes West Virgina the 12th state to have full-fledged casino with slots and table games. It becomes the second in the nation behind Iowa, to offer live racing, slots and table games.
Wheeling, a city in the Northern Panhandle has been beset by economic woes including the loss of thousands of jobs in the steel industry in recent years.
Pointing to empty storefronts and nearly deserted streets, Lester Raban said, “Look around, we don’t have anything left. If it is going to bring in 400 jobs I’m all for it.”
Bob Marshall, Wheeling Island’s general manager said, “we are going to be in the business of hiring hundreds and hundreds of employees over the next several weeks.”
Laurin LeTart, a co-chair of the campaign to pass the measure in Jefferson County said, “The defeat is painful for people who had worked hard to solicit support.”
“The real losers tonight are our schools and our county, which would have gained millions in new revenues from table games, not to mention as many as 500 new jobs.”
LeTart is a member of the Jefferson County Schools Education Foundation, which helps raise money for the local schools.