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Charles Town set to grow, add slots

June 23, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Races will convert about 200 of its video lottery machines to slot machines by early August, according to an official with Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track.

Although the track has the capability to convert 835 of its 935 video lottery games to slot machines, the conversion will be gradual, said Bill Bork Sr., president and chief operating officer of Penn National.

Bork said he wants to introduce slot machines slowly to see how patrons like them.

"We happen to think they will like them a lot," Bork said.

The conversion is just part of many preparations to expand gambling at the track.

The track is switching to slot machines while it prepares to add 500 more video lottery games.

With that expansion, the track would have 1,435 slot machines and video lottery terminals.

Charles Town may have up to 300 of the additional video lottery machines at the track by the end of the year, Bork said.

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The indoor paddock will be converted into a gaming area for the expanded operations, he said. Penn National is getting a bid for the work, and the cost is unclear, Bork said.

"Believe me, it's in the millions," he said.

The track will use kits to convert video lottery terminals to slot machines. Some games will be the "one-armed bandit" style, while others will be controlled with buttons, Bork said.

Penn National hopes slot machines at the track will generate revenues like those enjoyed by other tracks that have slots.

In 1998, the three tracks in Delaware received an average of $354 per day for every slot machine, Bork said.

By comparison, Charles Town received an average of $160 a day at each of its video lottery machines.

Penn National officials said they wanted slot machines because patrons prefer them over video lottery.

"They have a better widget," Bork said. "That's why we fought so hard to get this."

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