Philly Park Sets Plan for Slots Conversion

Patrons at Philadelphia Park will find themselves in an unfamiliar world--at least temporarily--by the fall of 2006.

In the wake of Greenwood Racing filing its application for 1,200 slot machines with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in late December, plans have been made to change the layout of the circa-1974 racetrack to accommodate the machines while a state-of-the-art facility is erected adjacent to the paddock area.

The gaming control board is expected to approve applications filed by racetracks some time this summer, and slots could be in place at Philadelphia Park by the fall.

"To jump-start the process, we're undertaking the interim step of placing the machines in the grandstand on the first and second floors while construction on a new facility proceeds," said Hal Handel, chief executive officer for Greenwood. "This should let us get open quickly after the issuance of a gaming license later this year, and also jump-start the process of improving the racing product and purses at the earliest date and time. The idea is to get open within months of license issuance."

Handel said the now-vacant third-floor grandstand would be renovated and opened for wagering and dining. The popular sports bar on the second floor will be closed during renovations, and most of the furniture and televisions from both the first and second floors will be moved to the third floor. A limited number of mutuel windows and seating will remain for fans on both floors, Handel said.

"If everything goes right, we could be in operation this fall," he said.

Once the stand-alone slots facility is opened, the grandstand will revert back to its current use for live racing and simulcasting.

In other news, Handel said officials have been meeting with Hamilton Township, N.J., officials in regard to plans for Greenwood-owned Atlantic City Race Course. Handel said he would have no definitive news about the future of the track before mid-February, but could be leaning toward tearing down the dilapidated brick grandstand and rebuilding a smaller one that would double as a year-round off-track wagering facility.

Plans call for an increase in the number of live racing dates to between 15 and 25 for 2007. This year, Atlantic City will offer four days of all-turf racing.