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Simulcast is fast out of the gate

June 08, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - It had a slow start, but simulcast racing has made an impressive showing since it began at Charles Town Races on Saturday, track officials said.

The local thoroughbred track has contracts to broadcast its races to 13 tracks across the country.

Simulcasting allows racing fans at other tracks to bet on races at Charles Town. The track sends its signal by satellite to the other tracks, where bettors watch the races on television monitors.

On Saturday night, $78,000 was wagered on races at Charles Town through simulcasting, said Dick Watson, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. On Sunday, about $69,000 was wagered, he said.

"I expect that to keep right on growing," Watson said, as racing fans across the country become more familiar with local jockeys and horses.

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"We're pleased with the numbers we've gotten in the last three days," said Bill Bork Jr., marketing director at Charles Town.

Tracks receiving Charles Town's signal include Pocono Downs near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Philadelphia Park, River Downs near Cincinnati, Thistle Downs near Cleveland, Garden State in Cherry Hill, N.J., Delaware Park in Wilmington, Del., Laurel Race Course near Baltimore, Rockingham Park in New England, Fort Erie in Canada, Calder Race Course in southern Florida, Evangeline in Louisiana, Northfield Park in Ohio and Freehold Raceway in New Jersey.

With purses climbing to all-time highs at the oval, officials thought the time was right to begin simulcasting. Now up to about $77,000 a day, the purses have attracted better horses, and track owners hope that will result in increased interest in the track among racing fans around the country.

Simulcasting was scheduled to begin at the track by May 3 but encountered some bureaucratic delays.

The track made several improvements for the simulcasting, such as better lighting on the oval. A satellite truck parked outside the track is being used to send the track's signal , Bork said.

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