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Video lottery still running behind

July 28, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Races officials had hoped to see gamblers in the video lottery gaming room by now.

Instead, construction workers swarm the room where the gambling machines will eventually be installed.

The wait for the long-delayed video lottery at the horse racing track is going to be even longer, said track spokesman Bill Bork Jr.

The video lottery gaming room is expected to open by mid- to late August, Bork said recently.

Track officials had initially hoped to have the $18 million renovation project finished by April 2, including the new video lottery.

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Work continues throughout the facility as horse racing continues outside on the oval track.

Even though the work is not completed, track attendance already is up compared to the same time last year and gamblers are betting more than twice as much per visit, about $54 per person compared to about $28 per person last year.

Track officials expect the numbers to improve even more once the renovation work is done and the video lottery room opens.

Half of the lobby, where gamblers watched races simulcast from other tracks across the country, has been closed off while workers renovate it to create a more comfortable area, he said.

There will be more television sets to broadcast the simulcast races and more tables and chairs.

The clubhouse seating and restaurant area has already been renovated but still needs small areas of trim and detail work.

Outside, work also continues on the building's facade.

Eventually it will look like a California-style building. The gaming room will continue the theme with a "Hollywood" design, complete with a walkway with stars.

When the video lottery gaming room opens, the track hopes to have 400 machines in place. By mid-October, the number of machines will grow to about 1,000, Bork said.

Six hundred of the machines will be on the first floor and 400 will be on the second floor, Bork said.

The second floor will be reached by two new escalators installed in the gaming room, Bork said.

Bork said several problems have caused the delays - unforeseen construction work and the approval process of the state lottery commission for the machines and chips.

The delays have been frustrating, but Bork said he believes people will like the changes to the old track. He said long-time visitors who return once the work is completed won't be able to recognize the place.

"We think the public will be pleased with the results," he said.

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