Slots expansion on target for July opening

June 16, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Sharon and Loy Clements of Joppatown, Md., rode their Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Charles Town Races & Slots on Sunday.

They said they'll be glad when the racetrack opens its new gaming area because they sometimes have trouble finding seats.

Even with 2,700 slot machines, the large operation has room to grow, said track President James Buchanan.

By the end of the year, when all 3,500 slot machines are online, the facility will be the largest slot machine enterprise in West Virginia and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

You'll have to go to Atlantic City, N.J., to find more slot machines in one place, he said.

Charles Town Races & Slots is on schedule to open the latest phase of its ongoing expansion - a new 41,000-square-foot slots palace - on July 1, Buchanan said.


The most visible part of the expansion is a new and grander entrance featuring a four-lane, covered entry.

Architecturally, it matches the rest of the complex with its red tile roof and tan stucco walls.

Within a few months, a new entertainment stage, bar and expanded food court will open, Buchanan said.

Frequent visitors also will notice some smaller design differences as a result of the expansion, he said.

To accommodate the growth, the track has begun the process of hiring 150 people, he said. Right now, the track has about 1,100 full- and part-time employees.

But Charles Town's expansion is not popular with everyone.

Doris Ballenger, 62, of Charles Town, is a regular at the slot machines, but she said the operation is getting too big for such a small town.

There are no traffic signals to help control the many vehicles going in and out of the complex.

Buchanan wouldn't say what's next after this $54 million is finished.

"It might be contingent on what happens in neighboring states," he said.

Both Maryland and Pennsylvania are considering legalizing slot machines, and Buchanan said Charles Town draws people from those states, as well as from Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The Clementses are among the Maryland gamblers who would like to see slots legalized.

Richard and Ellie Sodergren of Hagerstown, who visited the track Sunday so Richard could bet on horses, said they also wish the state would OK slots.

Slots help the horse-racing industry because it helps increase betting purses, he said.

"Maryland needs help in that respect," he said.

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