Charles Town Races Simulcast parlor opens

January 24, 1998


Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - John Hostler, 60, pumped his right arm like a jockey trying to urge a horse to run faster Friday as he watched a horse race on a television screen.

"Come on," he yelled as he stared up at the screen.

He moaned in disappointment and then immediately turned his eyes to another television to catch the race being televised from another race track.

"Come on 2," he urged.

The shouts of Hostler and other gamblers playing the ponies may have been familiar but their surroundings were anything but.

Charles Town Races officially opened the new $4 million simulcast racing facility at the track to broadcast other horse and greyhound races from across the country.


The new "Long Shots" facility has a broad standing area, large television screens, a bar and wide tables for seating, and a private, VIP area, said track president Bill Bork Sr.

It replaces the crowded simulcast racing area at the track. Before, the bettors had to watch small television screens placed high up on the ceiling, said track spokesman Bill Bork Jr.

The only seating was small tables with seats bolted closely together.

The track is betting that the $4 million investment in creating a nicer facility will pay off by attracting more bettors, who will be more comfortable, which will keep them there longer and betting more money, the elder Bork said.

The simulcast racing is a daily feature at the track and makes more money for the facility than the live racing or the video slot machines, he said.

"You can't be one venue and make it today," Bork said.

The track pulled in about $60 million last year and simulcast racing drew $36 million, he said. After purses were paid, the track netted about $2.8 million from simulcast racing. The horsemen also received about $2.8 million as part of an agreement with them on simulcast racing.

The $4 million spent on the simulcast center is part of more than $20 million that the track's owner, Penn National, has spent on renovating Charles Town Races.

So far, the stables have been rebuilt, the outside facade added, the restaurant and kitchen area modernized, the Silver Screen Gaming Room constructed and the offices renovated since Penn National bought the facility about a year ago.

But there is still more to do. Bork said he is eager for the day when the construction workers and contractors are finished.

Bork said it probably would have been better from a business aspect to have kept the track closed while the renovation work was done.

Track officials worry that those who visited during the dust and dirt days of construction will not return because they did not leave with a good impression of the track, he said.

But Penn National had made a promise to voters in the referendum that allowed video lottery to open the track as soon as possible to put people back to work, Bork said.

Bobby Dyke, 55, of Charles Town, said he's been impressed by the work that has been done.

"It's real nice. It's probably 100 percent better," he said as he sat in the new simulcast center. "Before it was so crowded you had no place to sit. You couldn't bring your wife over. Now maybe you could bring your wife."

Hostler said he thinks the track looks better than it ever did.

"I've been coming here since I was 8 years old," he said.

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