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Players ready for 'big money'

People crowd Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races for chance at table games

July 02, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Kristopher Kirk, center, a table games dealer at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, deals blackjack Friday night on the casino's second day of table games.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Matt Lavoie was among a throng of people jammed around a couple of blackjack tables that were open for play Friday evening at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

"This is nuts!" Lavoie said. "I didn't think there would be this amount of people here."

After playing blackjack on his iPhone for a couple of years, Lavoie, who traveled from Washington, D.C., said he was ready to play for "big money."

Lavoie said he has no tricks for playing the card game.

"Go with the gut, that's all I know," Lavoie said.

Two pits of table games -- including blackjack, roulette and other carnival games -- along with six poker tables had opened for play at the casino by 8:45 p.m., according to spokesperson Tiffany Lawrence.

More tables are expected to be opened for play throughout the weekend, and the casino expects to have all 112 tables -- including a 27-game poker room -- open by next weekend, Lawrence said.

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Lavoie's friend, Robert Vial, said the casino was more impressive than one he visited in Harrington, Del.

"It's real small, nothing like this," said Vial, who was on a waiting list to play.

While people were crowded around several tables near the valet entrance to the casino Friday evening, work continued nearby to open more games. One worker on a lift towering over the crowd was making sure he could see all the felts on the tables for security purposes, Lawrence explained.

At a horseshoe-shaped pit nearby, workers appeared to be finishing the assembly of other tables, which were roped off from the public.

The "high limit" pit also was being prepped to open for the first time Friday night, Lawrence said.

Chrissy Krutz of Tysons Corner, Va., said she was enjoying her first casino experience, watching two friends play blackjack.

"My friends are quite the gamblers," Krutz joked while looking over their shoulders. "I'm having a good time."

Linda Biberaj of Fairfax, Va., wasn't happy about having to wait for about three hours for the first tables to open Friday after arriving at the casino at about 3 p.m., but she said she won $200 playing slot machines while she waited.

"I haven't touched any of my winnings yet," said Biberaj, who planned to leave the casino with her brother, Ben, for New York late Friday to see the Yankees play today.

Lawrence said the casino had seven table games open for play at about 11:45 p.m. Thursday, less than 24 hours after trucks delivered them. The games were open until about 4 a.m. Friday, when they closed for regulatory approval, Lawrence said.

"This has never been done before this quickly," Lawrence said.

The new games join 5,000 slot machines at the casino and racetrack, which was known as Charles Town Races & Slots before the arrival of table games. The thoroughbred racetrack opened in 1933.

Jefferson County voters approved the addition of table games in a 2009 referendum. Voters approved the addition of video lottery machines in 1996, and state lawmakers allowed slot machines at Charles Town in 1999.

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