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Track unveils new slot machines

December 20, 1999

New slot machinesBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Races officially unveiled 565 new slot machines Monday morning, and by noon, the track had a $2,000 winner.

cont. from front page

Dennis Gorman, who came to the track with some friends from near Purcellville, Va., was playing a slot machine in a giant tent when the first tumbler landed on a red bar, which is worth 20 credits.

The next two tumblers landed on "10 times," meaning the 20 points were multiplied by 10, and that amount was multiplied by 10.

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Each credit is worth $1, and Gorman walked away $2,000 richer.

"When you're hot, you're hot," Gorman told friends.

Five hundred of the machines are in a fully-enclosed tent outside the front entrance of the track. Reels spun and lights on the one-armed bandits flashed as track patrons gave the machines a workout.

"I didn't think it would be this nice," Julie Sours said as she fed quarters into one of the machines.

Sours, of Sterling, Va., said the machines look no different than slots in the big casinos in Atlantic City, N.J.

Until this month, the track had 935 video lottery machines, which print out a slip of paper showing a player's winnings. The slip is taken to a validation window to be cashed.

Although video lottery is popular, track officials say patrons had asked for slot machines, saying they like the feel of them better. When slot machine players hit the pay-out button, coins drop into a metal tray in front of their laps.

"There's an entirely different ambiance with the coin-drop machines," said Dick Watson, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

If a pay-out is large, it is paid by hand from track clerks.

The 500 slot machines were officially opened to the public Monday. Earlier this month, 65 slot machines were ready for action inside the main gaming area.

During the official opening Monday, track officials said Charles Town Races can continue to boost the economy and support local charities with the additional machines.

In 1999, the track gave about $59,500 in charitable donations. To commemorate the new slot machines, the track donated $12,500 to five organizations.

Track officials handed $2,500 checks to the Jefferson County Boys and Girls Club, Hospice of the Panhandle, Jefferson County Community Ministries, Shepherdstown Men's Club and the Christmas Cheer Booth.

"The coin slot machines will bring in added revenue to Charles Town Races and we are glad to use that money to help those organizations help those who need it most," said track President Jim Buchanan.

The 500 slot machines will be kept in the tent until renovation of an existing paddock is complete, said Bill Bork Jr., director of marketing. Construction is expected to begin soon and the paddock could be ready to for the slots by mid-summer, Bork said.

A new paddock built beside the grandstand was opened Dec. 8.

A paddock is an area where horses can be viewed before races begin.

Slot machines will be in the bottom of the old paddock's low area, and gamblers will be able to look down onto the slot machine area, which will incorporate a Western theme, Bork said.

"It's pretty labor-intensive. To put in a casino floor takes a lot of mechanical and electrical work," Bork said.

The number of slot machines is expected to increase. About 235 video lottery machines will be converted to slot machines by the second quarter of next year, said Ted Schieffer, director of gaming operations.

Track officials say they hope the demand for slots will mean higher revenues, which has been the case with other tracks with slot machines.

The "net drop," or money left after pay-outs, for each video lottery machine is about $170 a day.

Tracks like those in Delaware have seen their net drops go to about $300 a day with slot machines.

Purses at the track have risen to about $80,000 a day, and are expected to go up "significantly" with the addition of the slot machines, Watson said.

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