Justices refuse to expedite casino games hearing

By Steve Korris | May 10, 2007

CHARLESTON - With elections approaching in four counties on whether to allow casino games at race tracks, a nonprofit group wants the Supreme Court of Appeals to declare the games unconstitutional.

CHARLESTON - With elections approaching in four counties on whether to allow casino games at race tracks, a nonprofit group wants the Supreme Court of Appeals to declare the games unconstitutional.

West Virginia Family Foundation has petitioned the Court to strike down the law that authorized the elections.

The foundation tried to speed up a hearing on its petition, but three of five Justices agreed May 10 that the foundation could wait until May 23.

Kanawha, Ohio, Jefferson and Hancock counties have set elections June 9 on allowing blackjack and other table games at dog and race tracks.

Legislators authorized the elections in an act they passed March 8.

According to Family Foundation attorney Barry Bruce of Lewisburg, the Legislature violated the West Virginia Constitution by allowing private ownership of the table games.

Bruce argues that the 1984 constitutional amendment which created a state lottery requires state ownership.

He warns that the act places no limit on the number of games.

He moved May 4 for an expedited hearing. He wrote that the approaching elections raised a need for immediate consideration.

Special Assistant Attorney General Thomas Goodwin opposed an expedited hearing May 8.

"It is a rather jarring notion that the mere holding of an election - the basic expression of the democratic will - could harm anyone," he wrote, adding that the foundation could have sued sooner and that the tracks would pay for the elections.

At a May 10 conference, Chief Justice Robin Davis and Justices Spike Maynard and Brent Benjamin refused to expedite the hearing. Justices Larry Starcher and Joseph Albright would have expedited it.

The majority set a May 16 deadline for Goodwin to respond to the foundation's petition. They set a May 23 conference on the petition.

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