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Gaming room opens at Charles Town Races

September 11, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Carroll Cubbage, 47, of Charles Town, sat in front of the bright red gaming machine, looking at the menu of gambling amusement.

On a touch screen, he could switch from keno to blackjack poker to slot machine-like games.

"I love it," said Cubbage, a carpenter who left work earlier because of the rain.

He was playing the horses, but quit without success to check out the newly opened Silver Screen Gaming Room at the Charles Town Races.

"I usually just come to play the horses, but I wasn't doing too good with them, so I thought I'd come here and play this."

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He won about $1,000 while he spent about $300 gambling.

"I'll be coming here more," he said with a smile.

Penn National President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Bork Sr. said he was pleased with Wednesday's opening of the long-anticipated gaming room.

"We kept it secret because we weren't sure until five minutes until 10 this morning if we could open," Bork said.

Once the track received permission from the state lottery commission, the Silver Screen Gaming Room opened.

The crowds were steady throughout the day and an estimated 5,000 people were expected to pass through the doors before closing time at 2 a.m. today.

The gaming room will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.

"With 224 machines running we don't want too many showing up right now," Bork said as he looked at gamblers playing the machines. "This is just a shakedown for the machines and the staff."

Earlier attempts to pass video lottery in Jefferson County had failed, but the voters passed it in November after the track closed. Penn National officials had promised to buy the track, renovate it and reopen it if the video lottery passed.

Among those opposed to bringing video lottery to the county were members of Citizens for Sanity and the Rev. Ernest Lyles, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Shepherdstown, who also is a member of the Shepherdstown Ministerial Association.

"I was then and I currently am opposed to gambling in any form," Lyles said Wednesday.

The ministerial association had said it feared the machines would tempt low-income people to spend money on gambling and would undermine families.

The group initially came out against video lottery when it was defeated by voters in 1994.

Bork said the gaming room will add 130 new jobs to the track. In addition, a portion of the money will go to the state and county governments.

Jefferson County is expected to receive more than $1.2 million annually from the video lottery money once all of the machines are running, Bork said.

The state lottery commission is holding a public meeting at 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22 at the track regarding the operation of up to 400 machines.

The track hopes to have 600 machines operating by the Oct. 17 grand opening of the Silver Screen Gaming Room, Bork said.

Cubbage said he liked the atmosphere of the gaming room, which has a Hollywood theme.

"It's quiet and peaceful," Cubbage said as music played in the background mixed with the sounds of the electronic games being played.

"Well, compared to Atlantic City it's quiet," Cubbage added.

Newlyweds Shawn Arnold, 26, and her husband, Matt Arnold, 27, of Shepherdstown, were sitting at home when they heard the gaming room had opened.

"We decided to spend some of our wedding money," said Shawn Arnold. "Not much of it," Matt Arnold said.

"We've had a few drinks and have had a good time," Shawn Arnold said.

They said they were new to gambling, but they liked the way the room looked and the atmosphere.

"I think it's nice. Obviously, it's a work in progress, but they're on the right track," Matt Arnold said.

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