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Kanawha County Casino Vote Hangs in the Balance

On August 11th, 2007, the special election in the biggest county in West Virginia was supposed to put an end to the debate whether to expand gaming in West Virginia's four racing tracks. Both Hancock and Ohio counties will soon have casino table games.

Jefferson County needs to wait for another two years after rejecting the casino table games. The West Virginia Family Foundation has shelved their plans to challenge the legality of the casino games with a lawsuit which has already been dismissed by the state Supreme Court.

Kanawha County barely passed the casino games - just 33 ballots out of the 45,055 that are counted. The officials of the Tri-State Racetrack must wait until the votes were officially canvassed. Poll staff had questioned these ballots because voters voted in wrong precincts, did not appear at the registration list and other reasons. The canvassing began on Friday.

Although the results are not yet final, casino table games lobbyist John Cavacinni said that challenged ballots rarely affect the outcome. If the final results of the vote are in favor of the games, the Tri-State racing track can began offering blackjack games, poker, slots and other casino table games.

Once the canvassing of the votes is finished, a recount can be petitioned within the span of 48 hours. But the person who filed the petition must be willing to pay the expenses if the outcome of the vote does not change. Rev. Dennis Sparks, the executive director of the state Council of Churches said that they will push for a possibility for a recount of the votes.

Sparks also remained hopeful regarding the close vote. About 36% percent of the Kanawha County's 125,695 voters decided on the resolution, including the 10,275 voters during the early balloting that ended August 8th, 2007. Tri-State Racing Track and their supporters have spent a total of $160,000 dollars for ads on the three major television networks in Kanawha Valley.

The unofficial results of the vote show the biggest opposition to the table came from Nitro, the host community of Tri-State and the communities of Cross Lanes and St. Albans. The casino table games did well in South Charleston and the upper class section of Charleston. Cavacini said that their campaign focused on reaching individuals that have an open mind and who usually take part in referendum votes.


Sunday, September 16 , 2007
Emma Green