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The Inn at Charles Town officially opens

September 06, 2008|By DON AINES

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- When Penn National Gaming acquired the Charles Town Racetrack in 1997, it employed 238 people and nightly purses for the ponies totaled about $20,000, said Roger Ramey, vice president for public affairs at what has grown to become Charles Town Races & Slots.

Eleven years and more than $300 million later, Charles Town Races & Slots employs more than 1,300 people and purses have grown to exceed $180,000 per night, General Manager Al Britton said. That investment includes $21 million for The Inn at Charles Town, where West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin cut the ribbon Saturday morning.

"We've continued to invest here in Charles Town and have discovered that West Virginia is great place to do business," said Peter Carlino, chairman and CEO of Penn National Gaming.

Since taking over the track and adding 5,000 slot machines, Charles Town Races & Slots has generated more than $1.6 billion in taxes and purses, said Carlino, including $976 million to the state's general fund, $260 million in purses and $51 million for Jefferson County and local governments.

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Most of that money -- 94 percent -- comes from outside of West Virginia, while 94 percent is the percent of West Virginians who work there, Carlino said.

"All those statistics Pete told you, Martin confirmed. Over and over and over," said Manchin, referring to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. O'Malley is counting on gaming being approved in Maryland to help its economy, Manchin said.

"Whether they support or agree with gaming or not is not the question now" for West Virginians, Manchin said. Revenue from the facility has been used efficiently by the state to benefit a number of programs, including money for scholarships, senior centers, Meals on Wheels and other programs to help people live more independent lives, he said.

The hotel, with more than 150 rooms and suites and some with balconies overlooking the racetrack, took in its first customers Friday night and it was about 80 percent occupied, Britton said.

Lesa Morris and Annette Massey of Lake Anna, Va., and Rhonda Luck of Stafford, Va., were among the first overnight guests, though they have been to Charles Town many times to play the slots.

"The slot machines weren't hitting too much," said Luck, although she was lucky on Aug. 1 when she won $7,200. Massey said she hit for $2,500 about two months ago.

"Even if you lose, you have a good time," Morris said. She and her friends said the accommodations and food were great, although they did not have any hot water Saturday morning.

The hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast buffet, wireless Internet access, a guest business office and shuttle service between the inn and the racing, gaming and dining offered by Charles Town Races & Slots.

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