03/10/2005 12:00AM

Charles Town cuts purses

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Purses at Charles Town Races have been cut by 20 percent across the board to address predicted revenue shortfalls from slot-machine gambling at the track, an executive of the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said Thursday.

Don Combs, the association's executive director, said horsemen were told of the decision Thursday morning. Average daily purse distribution at Charles Town will decline from approximately $180,000 to $145,000, Combs said.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia legislature passed a bill that in part tapped the horsemen's share of purse revenue to cover shortfalls in the state's workers' compensation program. At Charles Town, the legislation will require horsemen to give up $4.6 million in revenue this year, Combs said.

Officials of Charles Town did not return phone calls on Thursday.

Approximately 50 percent of all purse money at Charles Town is provided by slot-machine gambling, Combs said. In all, slot machines provided $92 million to West Virginia's four tracks during the last fiscal year, according to the state's racing commission.

Combs said that he believed slot-machine revenue to horsemen would decline further over the next several years because of new competition in Pennsylvania, where slot machines were legalized last year.