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West Virginia Win for Penn National

The state's legislature approves a measure to allow table games at racetracks.

Updated from 3:33 p.m. EST

The West Virginia state senate passed legislation Tuesday allowing table games at racetracks in the state, a move that will benefit

Penn National Gaming's

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Charles Town racetrack and slots facility.

State senators voted 20-13 Tuesday to pass the racetrack table games bill, which was the first time the Senate and the House of Delegates in the state have both approved such legislation in a session, the

Associated Press


"Today was a big day," says John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations with Penn National. "We're not home free, but we're very close."

The House must now agree to Senate changes to parceling out potential game proceeds, the

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reported. The bill would allow residents in local state counties where racetracks currently operate to vote on whether to permit table games at their tracks.

The House will view the new Senate bill overnight, and tomorrow it either will pass the bill or send it back to a committee to vote on changes, which would take a few days. "We don't expect a problem. We expect this will get worked out one way or another tomorrow," Finamore says.

He expects the referendum to go to Jefferson County voters (where Charles Town sits) in the fall. If passed, it will take about four to five months to get table games up and running, he says. The shell for the table games area has already been built, but the hiring and training of 500 employees to work in the section will be delayed until the local referendum is approved.

Penn National plans to introduce standard games such as roulette, craps, blackjack and some exotic games like Caribbean stud or Let it Ride. A poker room could also be introduced.

Penn National's Charles Town racetrack/slots facility is the dominant casino in West Virginia. It draws 75% of its business from Maryland, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area.

Analysts have said the final approval of table games legislation will add about

$1 to $3 of value to Penn National's shares.

Penn National has said it may also invest up to $200 million at the property to build additional amenities, such as a third parking garage and a 500-room hotel with meeting space.

Penn shares rose $1.40, or 3.1%, to $46.06 in afternoon trading Tuesday.