CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- While full-card simulcasting and off-track wagering are being hailed as the savior of Maryland racing, the increased competition appears to be taking its toll on the Charles Town Races.
During the first full week after the opening of an off-track betting parlor at the Cracked Claw in Urbana and the start of full-card simulcasting at the Maryland tracks and OTB parlor, Charles Town handled $442,935 in simulcast wagers and $1,094,918 on live racing, down 25 percent and 4 percent, respectively, from simulcast handle of $589,811 and live handle of $1,138,343 the previous week.
"Simulcasting is where we've been hurt the most," said mutuel manager Bill Dick. "We had been averaging a little over $98,000 a day on our full-card simulcasts, and now we're down to a little under $74,000 a day. On Mondays and Thursdays, we've been pushing to break $10,000 on our Belmont simulcasts."
Charles Town Races president D. Keith Wagner said the declines underscore the need for an alternative source of revenue to keep the three-quarter mile thoroughbred track viable.
"We knew that Maryland would eventually get off-track wagering and gain approval to offer the same simulcasts we've been offering, but we had hoped to be in a better position from which to compete by now," he said. "Video lottery would have given us something that surrounding states do not have and would have helped to keep our current fans here and attract new fans."
The Charles Town Races has been attempting to get state approval for the installation of video lottery terminals at the track, but such expansion is on hold.