County table games vote slated Dec. 5
A simple question faces voters in the Dec. 5 table games referendum here in Jefferson County. The ballot will read “Shall West Virginia Lottery Table Games be allowed at the Charles Town Races and Slots?” with “Yes” and “No” options awaiting a mark.
Two years ago, Jeffeson County Voters defeated this exact language. The three voting precincts of Shepherdstown voted overwhelmingly against the measure. Among the various social and moral objections raised by table games opponents, there were also those who opposed the bill because, in the words of Shepherdstown Delegate John Doyle, “It’s not a good deal for Jefferson County.” Jefferson County, particularly northern Jefferson County, agreed.
Voters rejected a bill that taxed table games revenues at 35 percent. Once taxed, the money would be deposited into fund called the Racetrack Table Games Fund. As the bill was written in 2007, only 4 percent of the table games fund went to local governments which hosted a casino; 2 percent for county government and 2 percent split among the municipalities by population. The vast majority, 85 percent, of the tax revenue generated by table games activities at Charles Town Races and Slots would have gone into West Virginia’s general fund for any lawmaker in the state to appropriate.
Fast forward two years, and now Doyle is a proponent of the table games legislation, having been a central player in negotiations to re-write the section of the West Virginia Lottery Racetrack Table Games Act which governs how tax revenue from table games is to be distributed. Now, local governments, groups and programs directly impacted by racetrack and casino activities are paid their table games dividends before any money is distributed back into state coffers.
The revised bill retains the 35 percent tax on table games revenues, but significantly changes how that tax revenue is spent. For starters, the structure by which the table games fund is distributed would evolve over two years.
The year one funding scheme first spreads 11 percent of the table games tax revenue across groups directly impacted by casino and racetrack activities. One percent of the table games fund goes to the local board of education for the purpose of capitol improvements, two percent to county municipalities and a half percent to the city of Charles Town. Three percent will go to administrative costs of the West Virginia Lottery Table Games Commission, which oversees and administers state table games.
Once the year two fundings scheme kicks in, 14 percent of the table games fund is again allocated to groups directly impacted by casino and racetrack activities. County government allocation would increase to 2 percent of the table games fund, split equally between the county general fund and capitol improvements for public schools. Jefferson County municipalitie’s would, as a whole, see their share of the table games fund jump from two percent to three percent, split according to population. The table games commission will see the slice dedicated to their administrative costs grow to four percent, up from three.
The revised bill also allocates two and a half percent of the table games fund to race purses, two percent to the state Thoroughbred Development Fund. These funds remain unchanged from year to year.
Once these groups and programs are paid out, 76 percent of the remaining funds would be deposited in West Virginia’s Debt Relief Fund to offset debts incurred by the state government. The 2007 table games law took 85 percent of the entire table games fund and put it in the state general fund. 10 percent of the remaining funds would be distributed equally across all state counties, another 10 percent of the remaining funds would be distributed across all state municipalities by population. The final four percent of remaining funds goes towards racetrack employee pension programs.