Legalizing table games may go to statewide vote in West Virginia

As the West Virginia Legislature takes on a new session this year, one thing on its plate will be whether or not to have a statewide vote to legalize table games at racetracks. The current bill under consideration only requires the four counties that have racetracks to vote, but others want to make it a statewide issue.

Many of the groups looking to make it a statewide vote are groups opposed to legalizing table games, such as poker, at the racetracks.

One such group is the West Virginia Council of Churches, who are opposed to any gambling expansion in the state. Executive Director Rev. Dennis Sparks said a limited vote is unfair to voters in the counties near those with racetracks.

At least one opponent of the limited vote is actually for the legalization of table games. Fraternal clubs such as Elks, Moose and other lodges would like to see a statewide vote and the legalization of poker for their clubs as well.

Fraternal clubs think the addition of Texas Hold'em offerings in their clubs would help increase their membership and bring in younger members.

Governor Joe Manchin said he wouldn't introduce legislation to legalize the games, but he would sign a bill allowing voters to decide if that's what the legislature decides to do.

According to House Speaker-elect Rick Thompson, the House will debate the table games this year, and more members are in favor of a county-option rather than statewide vote right now.

Related Article: West Virginia Clubs Want Table Games

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