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Locals react to gaming referendum

By Staff | Dec 11, 2009

Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, standing before a stack of ballot boxes at the Jefferson County Courthouse, reads the returns from the last ballot box to arrive at the courthouse on Saturday night. Jefferson County voters approved a measure to allow casino style table games at Charles Town Races and Slots. Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

CHARLES TOWN – Casting ballots during winter’s first snowfall, Jefferson County residents overwhelmingly voted to allow table games at Charles Town Races & Slots last Saturday, approving the referendum with over 59 percent of the vote, besting anti-gambling activists 6,279 to 4,343 at county polling stations.

Jefferson County voters had defeated a similar referendum to bring table games to CTRS over two years ago, with 56 percent of county residents voting against the measure. The 2007 referendum was criticized for not providing enough money for local schools. Subsequently, Jefferson County state delegates worked out a revised table games bill which allocated a greater portion of table games tax revenues to the local school board.

Jefferson County voters appear to have been won over by the revised bill with the referendum winning victories in almost every precinct in Jefferson County. In only four precincts did opponents of table games best the proponents, two of which were located in the immediate vicinity of Shepherdstown: Bethel United Methodist Church, which recorded 261 “no” votes to 233 “yes” votes, and Shepherdstown Elementary School, which recorded 224 “no” votes to 221 “yes” votes. Voters in precinct 13B, voting at CW Shipley Elementary School, and voters in Precinct 14, voting at Camp Hill Weley Methodist Church, also recorded more “no” votes than “yes”.

Of the six precincts representing greater Shepherdstown, four were in favor of the table games referendum, albeit narrowly. Voters at Trinity Episcopal Church on German St. approved of table games 108 to 103, voters at Covenant Baptist Church approved table games 258 to 249. Likewise, voters in precinct 35A, voting at the Shepherdstown Fire Hall, approved table games 173 to 165. Bucking the local close-vote trend, voters in precinct 35B, also voting at the Shepherdstown Fire Hall, overwhelmingly approved of table games, besting opponents 201 to 14.

Shepherdstown resident, college student and gambling enthusiast Allie Nasteff of Princess St. said she voted for table games as a way to boost the local economy. “It will give local people who are unemployed job opportunities.” Said Nasteff, adding “Oh, and more fun to be had for gamblers!”

Shepherdstown resident Kerry Krogstead voted against the measure, saying that the local economy needed to diversify rather than become too dependant on one or two industries. “We need to get more blue-chip companies in this area, more technology jobs in this area. We need better jobs than just the minimum wage jobs offered by the track,” said Krogstead.

Another local resident, 25-year-old Shepherd student Hunter Kerns of North Mill Street, did not vote in the referendum despite being registered here. Kerns, who grew up in Berryville, said that he did not feel entitled to vote in a community which he plans on leaving once he graduates.

According to state law, Jefferson County voters cannot hold another referendum to recall table games for at least five years, and any referendum proposal to remove table must be preceeded by a petition bearing the signatures of 5 percent of county eligible voters.