Charles Town Races wins slot machine gamble

July 21, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Gamblers bet nearly $269 million at video lottery machines at Charles Town Races in the fiscal year that ended June 30, West Virginia Lottery officials said Monday.

Nearly 92 percent, or $247 million, went back to players as winnings on the machines.

But the real winners were Charles Town Races, the West Virginia Lottery, the Jefferson County Commission, and fire and rescue volunteers.

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"It will be a tremendous amount of assistance," said Henry Christie, president of the Jefferson County Fire and Rescue Association.

The Jefferson County Commission, which receives 2 percent of the net revenues from the video lottery machines, already has promised $100,000 of the nearly $430,000 county share to the five fire and rescue companies.

"Anything like that is a tremendous amount when you're begging, borrowing and stealing to raise funds," Christie said.

"It'll help a great deal," said Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Chief Scott Knill. "It'll help pay for our insurance."


The gross revenue for video lottery machines was $21.8 million, said Tacy Donovan, video lottery coordinator for the West Virginia Lottery.

An administrative fee was taken from the gross revenue, leaving a net revenue of $21.5 million, Donovan said.

The Charles Town Races received $10.1 million from the video lottery money, Donovan said.

"We're pleased with what we had," said Bill Bork Jr., marketing director at Charles Town Races. "For our first year, we weren't sure what to expect."

Charles Town Races started with about 229 machines when video lottery gambling opened in September as part of a $40 million renovation of the track. Voters approved allowing video lottery machines at the track in a 1996 referendum.

The track currently has about 749 machines and hopes to have 1,000 by the end of this year, Bork said.

The video lottery earnings outpaced the estimated $5 million the track earned from live racing and simulcast events, Bork said. Live racing grossed about $22.2 million in the past fiscal year, while simulcast racing brought in a total of about $40.3 million, Bork said.

Other video lottery money from the track went to:

* Jefferson County Commission: $429,900.
* West Virginia Lottery: $6.4 million.
* Horse-racing purses at Charles Town Races: $3 million.
* An employee pension fund: $170,000.
* Development funds for the breeding of thoroughbred horses and greyhound racing dogs: $334,000.
* West Virginia Department of Tourism: $644,000.
* A West Virginia veterans' memorial: $215,000.

Donovan said Charles Town's gross terminal revenue earnings placed it third among the four racetracks in the state with video lotteries behind Mountaineer Park, which grossed $55.8 million, and Wheeling Downs, $33.3 million. The Tri-State Greyhound Park came in fourth with a $20.2 million gross revenue.

"I say since Charles Town's video lottery only was open 42 weeks, it'll be number two real soon, probably," Donovan said.

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