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W.Va. track nears slots limit with new offerings

June 09, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Charles Town Races & Slots is at it again, spending millions to offer hundreds of new slot machines to its patrons in an elaborate atmosphere highlighted by water features, park scenes and connections to the movie industry.

The new gaming area, called Slot Central, opened May 26 and offers track patrons 800 new slot machines to play.

The new machines are not played with coins.

Instead, a player inserts a card into the machine, which keeps track of the number of credits the player has, said John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track.

When a player wants to go to another machine, the card is removed and can be inserted into the next machine, Finamore said.

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With coin machines, players wait for the slot machine to dispense coins before switching to another machine, Finamore said.

"It's so clean. It's so easy," Finamore said.

The 800 slot machines, which get the track close to its state-allowed limit of 4,500, are set in an atmosphere which simulates a town, similar to the existing Slot City.

As is the theme at Charles Town, there's no skimping on the decor.

As patrons walk into Slot Central, a facade of a building called the mayor's mansion sits to the left. The building has a New Orleans feel, with a curved front and balcony.

At the back of the gaming area is Slot Central Park, meant to emulate New York City's Central Park. Slot Central Park is separated from the rest of the area by ornate gates that rise to the ceiling. Behind the gates are trees with small white lights in their boughs; a sunset scene appears behind them.

In the middle of Slot Central Park is a huge statue of a Colonial-era man charging ahead on a galloping horse.




Studio gets into the act


Expanding on Hollywood themes in other parts of the building, track owners teamed up with Paramount Pictures to promote current movies in the gaming area, Finamore said.

The track will promote current movies in Slot Central by displaying movie posters similar to ones that can be seen in cities, Finamore said.

Huge posters promoting movies like "The Honeymooners," "The Longest Yard" and "War of the Worlds" hung in the cavernous gaming area Wednesday.

Track owners approached Paramount Pictures about the promotional project, and Paramount liked it, Finamore said.

"Of all the things we have done here, I like this one the best," track spokesman Roger Ramey said.

The machines are in a newly constructed gaming area in the middle of the track's complex. It used to be an outdoor area between some loading docks and the barn area.

Workers started to enclose the roughly 35,000-square-foot area a little more than a year ago and the project was part of a $20 million investment in the track, Finamore said.

Workers still are putting a few finishing touches on the gaming area and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected in about a month, Finamore said.

The project also included an expansion of the parking garage to give the structure 2,500 parking spaces and new administrative offices and new horse racing offices.

Slot machine players took advantage of the new offerings Wednesday, content with what they saw.

"It's gorgeous," said Patty Emge of Woodbridge, Va.

Emge said she did not like the coinless machines at first, but now finds it to be an easier way to play.

Brenda Drew of Richmond, Va., agreed.

"They're more interesting, I think," she said.

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