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Machines raise Charles Town jackpots

April 20, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A new line of video lottery machines being introduced at Charles Town Races can offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in jackpots by pooling a certain amount of the money wagered on the games.

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Referred to as "progressive" video lottery machines, track officials turned on the first 16 of 50 machines on April 13.

By Saturday, the track had its first jackpot winner when Becky Wagner of Mt. Airy, Md., won a $3,088 jackpot, according to track officials.

The machines are set up in "banks," and a portion of the money wagered on every game is put in a pool of money that makes up the jackpot, according to Bill Bork Jr., director of marketing.

The jackpot can go off at any time and can build for several weeks before someone wins, said Bork.

The potential jackpot far exceeds what patrons can win on the current video lottery machines.

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The $3,088 jackpot that Wagner won Saturday night is comparable to the top prize that can be won playing the conventional video lottery machines.

But the keno progressive machines, which will be unveiled at the track today, start with a jackpot of $20,000.

Earlier this year, a patron playing a keno progressive machine at the Wheeling Downs in Wheeling, W.Va., won $300,000, said Bork.

The introduction of the new machines comes as the track is preparing to switch from video lottery machines to slot machines.

The track recently received permission from the Legislature to replace its video lottery machines with slot machines after patrons said they preferred the feel of slots over video lottery.

But that doesn't mean the track will stop offering and enhancing video lottery.

"We're not going to sit back and wait. They've proved to be very popular at other tracks in the state," Bork said referring to the progressive machines.

One player at the track Tuesday evening said she did not like the progressive games because it seemed she was not able to generate as many credits, or winnings, as she can on the regular video lottery machines.

Other players said the chance of winning the jackpot is worth the cost.

Irene Stewart of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., played the progressive machines for the first time Tuesday evening and she was happy with the results. She quickly won $124 and had slipped another $20 into the machine hoping for more good luck.

But Stewart said she has to watch how much she wagers.

"I'm retired. It (money) comes too hard. It's just luck if you hit," she said.

Each game on the conventional machines is 25 cents. On the progressive machines, a player can bet 25 cents or 50 cents, but 75 cents must be wagered for a chance at winning the jackpot.

In addition to keno and slot-machine-style progressive machines, like the one on which Wagner won, there will also be poker style progressive machines.

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