No ‘loopholes’ for Penn National in REIT
I read with interest the article in last week’s Spirit quoting Mr. David Hammer, the outside attorney for the local Horsemens Benevolent Protection Association. Hammer was speculating about the pending Real Estate Investment Trust transaction being undertaken by Penn National Gaming. It was unfortunate that the writer, Bryan Clark, did not reach out to anyone from PNGI, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, the West Virginia Lottery Commission, the West Virginia Racing Commission, the West Virginia Department of Revenue or any resources who could have easily dispelled the assertions and speculations of Hammer.
Hammer’s assertion that “No one in the state is on top of this issue” is nothing short of insulting. Hammer presented his theories at the Racing Commission meeting in July, before the vote of either commission was taken. Both the Lottery and Racing commissions thoroughly reviewed this transaction over a matter of several months with guidance from their in-house counsel and the state Attorney General’s office, who reviewed all of the transaction documents, and both agencies unanimously approved the transaction. So his theories/concerns were considered and dismissed because they have no merit.
Now, having failed in his attempt to stop or slow the process, he wants to use the Jefferson County Commission as a vehicle to this end. The purpose is clear to PNGI/HCCTR management. The HBPA would like to somehow insert itself into the REIT approval process in hopes of using that position as a bargaining tool in upcoming contract negotiations with Hollywood Casino.
To put the County Commission, the citizens of Jefferson County and the horsemen at ease, all taxes paid by Hollywood Casino (to the state, the county, the municipalities, the purse fund, the breeders fund, etc.) are based on net gaming revenue, not net income. The law is clear (and there are no “loopholes”), that there may be no deductions of expenses from net gaming revenue for the purpose of calculating those taxes, a fact that Hammer either knew or should have known. Further, all gaming revenues generated at Hollywood Casino are remitted to, and then distributed by, the West Virginia Lottery, including Hollywood’s portion.
To be clear, there is absolutely no impact at all on the taxes and assessments paid by Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races to the various beneficiaries, including Jefferson County and the horsemen, in West Virginia as a result of this transaction.
It is still perplexing to me that the HBPA allows its president, Randy Funkhouser, to continually oppose initiatives by PNGI and Hollywood Casino to insure the long-term health of our business, which includes thoroughbred racing, and the over 2,000 (mostly local) direct jobs we provide. I continue to hear public comments from some local politicians and Funkhouser regarding the need to preserve horse racing in Jefferson County, a sentiment with which I agree. What I do not hear from them is that the best way to preserve horse racing in Jefferson County is to insure the health and vitality of Hollywood Casino.
In 2012, Hollywood Casino raced more days than any other track in the country, paying out nearly $170,000 dollars in purses per day. Some may not be aware that, of the near $39 million paid out in purses last year at Hollywood, $33 million, or 85 percent of which came from gaming! Another $6 million or more went into the Breeders Fund entirely from gaming. Make no mistake, the future of racing in this county is contingent upon the continued success of Penn National Gaming and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, something this REIT transaction helps ensure.
General Manager, Hollywood Casino Charles Town Races
Community deserves thanks
A few weeks ago, a lovely letter was sent to the Spirit praising the efforts of those that coordinated and carried out, “Come for the History; Stay for the Hauntings.” This was indeed a well-attended and fun time that combined activities in both Harpers Ferry and Charles Town to celebrate West Virginia’s 150th birthday. The couple writing the letter went on to give the Chamber of Commerce a great deal of thanks for the tours that were offered during the event.
I’d like to start by thanking that couple from Shepherdstown who took the time to write the letter. I am so happy that you enjoyed Kevin Breeden and Mark Reinhart’s tours. I agree; they are fabulous storytellers and very educated in what they speak of.
However, credit should be given where credit is due. The Chamber of Commerce had absolutely nothing to do with the event. However, there are so many people to thank for the hours they spent working with me on this project.
First of all, I must thank our wonderful Mayor of Charles Town, Peggy Smith. She and her staff are the driving force that made this celebration possible. Secondly, a huge “thank you” to the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau who gave a generous grant to the project and answered the many questions that I had. The Jefferson County Commissioners office was highly supportive in having the Jefferson County Courthouse open for visitors and Sheriff Pete Dougherty volunteered his time to stay with me at the courthouse and was invaluable in his knowledge of the landmark. In Charles Town, several knowledgeable citizens gave of their time to give tours. Kevin Breeden and I both gave tours but the true thanks goes to those men who did not charge for their tours, but did it for the love of this town. I give a heartfelt thanks to Coach Jim Taylor, Mark Reinhart, and Jim Surkamp, none of whom would accept payment for the tours. I would also like to thank Todd Coyle for his efforts and advice in this event.
Harpers Ferry stood behind the event 100 percent! I give a very, very big “thank you” to Gary Debrueller, head of the Merchants Association of Harpers Ferry and his lovely wife Tammy, owner of the Village Shop on High Street, without whom this portion of the celebration would not have been possible. The town was decorated to the hilt with blue and gold and Rick Garland led some amazing tours!
This event did indeed take a lot of work, but it was well worth it to see Harpers Ferry and Charles Town come together as a community to celebrate. Hundreds of people enjoyed the event and learned that U.S. 340 is more than just a gambling destination. It links two towns whose history changed our country. We must never forget that and continue to celebrate our heritage.
Ann Khiel Fern
Thank you, Latch On
I would like to thank the Spirit for the recent coverage of the Big Latch-On event at Jefferson Memorial Hospital on Aug. 3.
Many may wonder why awareness needs to be raised about breastfeeding. Please allow me to say that I don’t consider myself “special” for deciding to nurse my child. If a mother feeds formula and they are happy with that decision, that’s wonderful. However, many do not realize the challenges that a breastfeeding mother sometimes faces. Most women choose to breastfeed because it is proven to reduce a child’s risk for illness, it gives him/her the best nutrition possible, and even reduces a mother’s risk for diseases like breast cancer. Nursing mothers usually have a rough start, as both mother and infant are on a learning curve, and a new mother is constantly wondering whether she is really able to sustain her baby’s life all on her own. The first weeks of breastfeeding are not easy, but they are worth it.
One of the major challenges a nursing mother faces should not exist – and that is public scrutiny. Recently, a different local newspaper posed a poll question asking about the appropriateness of a mother nursing her child in public. I assume this question did not have any ill intent behind it, yet the subliminal message it sent implied that this topic is up for discussion, and that was disturbing. Even more disturbing were some of the comments from the public regarding their opinions on breastfeeding in public. Some chastised the woman for having no modesty. Others compared feeding a child in public to urinating in public. Inevitably, to be successful, a mother will have to nurse her child in public. I am to the point that I could not care less what anyone thinks of me feeding my child in public. However, many new moms are not to that point. There are many women who tell themselves that it perhaps isn’t worth the judgment from others to continue breastfeeding once she has to start leaving the house to take care of errands. When she is faced with the decision of whether or not to feed her child in public, these judgmental comments from an ill-informed public are exactly what come to her mind. What if my child won’t tolerate a cover? What if someone sees a hint of the top of my breast — nevermind that billboards and magazines across America proudly show women with much more exposed — and is offended? What if someone gives me a glare, or says a rude comment to me, or even worse, tries to have me removed from their establishment? Trust me, fighting with a 6-month old in an attempt to cover his head while he’s trying to eat draws much more attention to a nursing mother and likely reveals a lot more of her skin as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year —and six months exclusively. The CDC recommends breastfeeding for at least one year. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. And yet, the percentage of U.S. babies that get breastfed for even one year is only 27 percent. The biggest problem here is public perception. The United States is the only place in the world that makes a nursing mother feel uncomfortable. And the results of that show; the United States is ranked dead last among developed nations for breastfeeding support. The United States is one of only a handful of countries – and the only developed country – that does not provide any paid maternity leave to facilitate the relationship between new mother and child. The rate of breastfeeding at six months is lower in our country than in most places in the world. Within the U.S., West Virginia currently ranks 45th in terms of breastfeeding success. West Virginia is the only state in the nation without a law on the books protecting mothers nursing in public.
A woman breastfeeding in public is trying to do one thing — nourish her child the best way she knows how. She does not want anyone staring at her. She does not want any judgment. And her child has every right to eat in public just the same as anyone else. The next time you see a woman breastfeeding her child, know that she is likely nervous. She is wondering who will give her those looks or those rude comments. She is preparing in her mind her response, and citing the federal law that protects public breastfeeding in her head. She is preparing to stand up for herself and her child. She has made it through weeks, or maybe even months of challenges to be successful at nursing her child – all because she is trying to do her best as a mother. Please, be mindful of this. If it’s something you do not wish to see, turn away, and perhaps question your own discomfort with happening to catch a glance of such a natural act.
Last week was World Breastfeeding Week. Let’s all work together on changing the public perception of breastfeeding. Maybe one day there will no longer be a need for awareness events, but until that day, as a nursing mom, thank you to Jefferson Memorial Hospital for hosting the Big Latch On event, thank you to those who organized it, and thank you again to the Spirit for covering something that is so very important to many of us.
Capito fails to discharge oath
Given the recent disclosure of the myriad spying programs, it has become abundantly clear that the National Security Administration is deliberately and knowingly violating the constitutionally protected and God-given rights to be secure in our person, houses, papers and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures of every American that uses a computer to search the Internet, uses email or makes a cell phone call. There is no warrant needed to do this spying so therefore there is no due process either. Due process is a bedrock principle of these United States. Without due process we are nothing more then mere subjects of the ruling class, vassals of the elite to be handled any way the “government” deems reasonable. Is this the government Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry left us? I think it is not. History tells us this is the very form of government that we are “duty bound to alter our abolish.”
The July 24 vote by Shelley Moore Capito against a proposal by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan to end the collection of records under the Patriot Act amounts to her failure to uphold the oath of office she took to defend the U.S. Constitution.
It should come as no surprise that Capito voted against the very Constitution she swore to protect and defend, as she voted for the Patriot Act not once, but twice. Since this amendment would undo a small portion of that Act, she just could not bring herself to admit her vote for the Patriot Act, which, by the way, has condoned and permitted the various spying agencies to turn their technologies inward onto the citizens they are charged with protecting, was a huge mistake, and is a direct assault on the protections guaranteed by the Fourth amendment.
In the May 2014 primary election, Capito is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. She has had 13 years as a congresswoman and has failed to discharge her oath of office on numerous occasions. In campaign mode, she says all the right things, but when it comes down to action, she abandons the Constitution and West Virginians. I urge everyone to do their own homework and review her voting record. Should we send her back to Washington, this time as a senator, because she has name recognition? Or should we support a true conservative Republican?
Gerald L. Hayes Jr.
On Aug. 2 at 11:15 p.m., I called 911 to report a noise and alcohol violation for campers at Moulton Park. We were camping at Lot 9 and the violators were camping at Lot 10. We had arrived at the campground at approximately 3 p.m. Our neighbors arrived shortly afterwards and immediately began drinking beer in the open, clearly violating the no alcohol policy outlined in the posted park rules. The two young men were joined by two other couples with two children. As the afternoon and evening wore on, they began playing music from their vehicle. As it became later, the volume of the music and their antics grew increasingly loud and distracting. Not wanting to cause any ill will, we decided to retire at 10:30 p.m. and hope that they would soon tire. Unfortunately, the music, singing and whooping and hollering only became louder. At 11:15 p.m., my husband went over and politely asked them to please keep it down a little. This was met with hostility and derision. Immediately upon my husband’s return to the tent, the music was turned up yet again in response to our request.
I decided that law enforcement was now needed and called 911. When the Sheriff showed up, we were unaware of exactly what was said between the violators and the responding officer, but it seemed quite congenial. The violators turned their music completely off when the officer arrived. Immediately after the officer left is when the situation escalated. The music was turned way up and the verbal threats began. We were told not to fall asleep and asked why we had to call the cops. “Don’t fall asleep” and “Just wait until morning” are two of the direct quotes I heard. The more inebriated they became, the more frightened I became. I left the tent and returned to our vehicle and called 911 again. I was at least 100 yards from our tent at this time and the dispatcher could clearly hear the verbal abuse and music coming from their site.
Officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department returned soon after my call. They spoke at length with the campers at Lot 10. I remained in my vehicle and my husband remained in our tent and did not speak again with the neighbors or the responding officers. One officer drove up to our vehicle to speak with us after they were done with our neighbors. What ensued when speaking with this man has left me speechless. Unfortunately, since I was both frightened, angered and upset I did not get the name of the officer. The first thing he did was ask for our camping permit.
Here are a couple of direct quotes from this so called officer. “People come to the river for all kinds of reasons. They came to unwind.” “Legally they can play their music at 60 decibels for 40 minutes and as long as they turn it down for 20 minutes, there is nothing I can do.” This is despite the posted quiet hours of the park. As to their consumption and display of alcohol where it is clearly prohibited he said “I can ask them to put it away.” He also commented “You can wait until they pass out and then play your music really loud at 9 a.m.”
You have got to be kidding me that this came out of an officer of the law! He then said that he would not nor could not ask them to leave and if we had issues with this he suggested we leave. He said he could not guarantee our safety. We were in no way breaking any laws or posted rules of the park, yet we would be asked to leave. Since we were genuinely scared to remain, we did just that. At midnight we began to clear our campsite in the dark at midnight. The officer did remain on scene at a distance to ensure