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Track wants 500 more machines

June 09, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Owners of Charles Town Races plan to ask permission to add 500 more video lottery machines at the oval, which would bring the number of machines to 1,435.

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The track wants the additional machines to accommodate an increasing number of patrons, including those from the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas, said Bill Bork Jr., director of marketing.

On Saturday nights, one of the busiest times at the track, it is sometimes impossible to find a video lottery machine to play because of the large crowds, said Dick Watson, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

At the track's request, Watson agreed to write a letter to the West Virginia Lottery Commission saying the HBPA supports the video lottery expansion.

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It is unclear how the expansion might occur. The proposal comes as the track is planning to replace most of its video lottery machines with slot machines.

Bork declined to elaborate until the new state law allowing slot machines goes into effect Monday.

Watson said he does not think the track will ask for permission to expand to 1,435 video lottery machines until it starts coverting the existing video lottery machines to slot machines.

Some of the video lottery machines can be converted to a "coin-drop" machine, but others will have to be replaced, said Watson.

The slot machine bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year allows tracks acorss the state to convert as many video lottery machines to slot machines as they want to, said Watson.

Any proposed expansion of video lottery must be approved by the state Lottery Commission, said Tacy Donovan, the commission's video lottery coordinator.

To be considered for a video lottery expansion, the track must submit certain information to the commission, including a floor plan of the expanded area and an income projection, said Donovan. The income projection would estimate how much money the track expects to generate from the added video lottery machines and how many jobs the expansion would create, said Donovan.

The track must also submit a plan showing how surveillance cameras in the video lottery area will be set up, Donovan said.

The surveillance cameras are used to detect any problems, such as someone tampering with the machines or trying to use counterfeit money, said Donovan.

Bork said some expansion of the track will probably be needed to accomodate 500 more video lottery machines, but he declined to say what changes might be made.

There has been consideration of converting the indoor paddock for video lottery, said Watson. The indoor paddock would then be replaced with a new outdoor facility, he said.

The track has talked about eventually building a hotel on the property, but Bork said that proposal won't be considered for some time.

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