W. Va. SC won't hear table games challenge

By John O'Brien | May 22, 2007


CHARLESTON, W. Va. - It's hard to tell if it's the attorney or county commission member in Kent Carper talking when he's asked about the constitutional challenge to the state's new table games law.

The West Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday voted 3-2, refusing to hear the challenge made by the West Virginia Family Foundation. In a report by The Associated Press, a foundation attorney hinted at taking the case to federal court.

That's part of the reason Carper doesn't see the ruling as a nail in the coffin, instead envisioning an endless stream of litigation.

"I guess there's no end to lawsuits," said Carper, a commission member in Kanawha County, one of the four counties authorized to conduct a vote that will decide the fate of table games in each. "I'd hope they don't."

Still, Tuesday's decision by the Supreme Court is likely not to be the last news made by the suit. Foundation President Kevin McCoy said as much in the AP report, claiming, "We're saddened by it, but it's not over by any stretch of the imagination."

The tables games law enacted this year allowed Hancock, Jefferson, Ohio and Kanawha counties to hold a public vote on the allowance of table games to their racetracks, which already feature slot machines.

The Family Foundation argued that table games weren't what the Legislature had in mind when it created the Lottery Commission in 1984.

"It was a run through the backdoor when they couldn't guard the front door," said Carper, of Charleston's Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Deitzler. "The good thing is the cloud is taken off the election for those who are having elections."

Jefferson and Ohio counties will have their elections June 9, with Hancock (June 30) and Kanawha (Aug. 11) to follow. Jefferson is home to Charles Town Races and Slots, Ohio features Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center, Hancock holds Mountaineer Park Race Track and Gaming Resort and Kanawha has Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center.

The allowance of table games is expected to provide millions in revenue statewide. Carper said he was disappointed that McCoy is quoted in the Charleston Daily Mail as saying, "It's revenue versus the rule of the law. We're not surprised by this ruling. We know we have a solid case, yet the Supreme Court justices, in the interest of revenue for the state, declined to hear our case."

Chief Justice Robin Davis and justices Elliott Maynard and Joseph Albright voted against hearing the case, while Justices Larry Starcher and Brent Benjamin voted to hear it.

"I just think personal attacks are out of place. This matter has been litigated and re-litigated," Carper said. "We are pleased that the voters will be allowed to vote. That is the basic function of a democracy.

"I am surprised by someone bring a lawsuit and saying that it absolutely has merit, then a week late saying it's not surprised it was turned down, them blaming the Court, claiming it put economics or money over a rule of law.

"There'll be no end to this. When some folks have an agenda, generally speaking, that's how they get a lot of their attention, by serial litigation."

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