Card Games Aid Charles Town Handle Increase

With table games, wagering on horse racing increases at Charles Town.

Pari-mutuel handle on live and simulcast racing has increased at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races since casino table games were added to the mix at the West Virginia facility, officials said Aug. 4.

Detailed figures for July offer an interesting look at one track’s experience in how becoming a full-scale casino impacts interest in horse racing. At Charles Town, the impact has been positive, according to comparisons between July 2010 and July 2009.

The track added table games in early July of this year.

With three fewer live racing days (20 this year versus 23 last summer), total on-site handle on live racing was $1,794,702 in July, up 2.2% from last July. On-site handle on import simulcasts totaled $2,770,704 this July, up 10.87%. Average daily on-site live handle was $89,735, up 17.5% from July 2009.

Charles Town general manager Al Britton said a new poker room on the second floor of the grandstand has helped boost wagering on racing. The second floor, which has access to a viewing area for live racing, had been used only for race wagering, which remains available.

“It’s a similar demographic, a similar customer,” Britton said in a statement. “When people are waiting to be seated at a poker table, we’ve found that a fair number of them wager on racing here.”

A topic of debate in the racing industry has been how expanded casino offerings impact slot machine or video lottery terminal play. Horsemen have expressed concern because if they receive revenue from table games, it’s much less than that generated by gaming machines.

In West Virginia, purses and breed development get revenue from VLTs and table games. In Pennsylvania, horsemen get no direct revenue from blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette.

Figures released by Charles Town indicate VLT revenue to purses increased in July ($2,800,853, up 6.9% from the same period last year).  Table games produced $96,685 for purses in their first month of operation.

In addition, purse revenue from live racing, import simulcasts, and the export of Charles Town’s signal all increased year-over-year.

Track officials said attendance on the racing side is up, so mobile mutuel clerks will be added this summer. As for the export handle on the Charles Town product, the daily average is up 18.7% (from $582,979 in July 2009 to $692,172 in July 2010) because of increased recognition of the product in the simulcast market.

Charles Town, located in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle near Maryland, has yet to face immediate competition from other casinos. The state’s other Thoroughbred track, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in the Northern Panhandle, is within easy driving distance of three casinos, two of which offer wagering on horse racing.