Slow pace doesn't worry owner


Even though Maryland's newest off-track betting parlor in Cambridge is lagging far behind the state's other two outlets in Frederick and Elkton, owner-operator Charlene Burton said yesterday that she's "not down on the system yet."

Burton said that the operation at her restaurant-motel complex called The Shoals, which is handling about a fifth of the money that goes though the mutuel machines at the Cracked Claw facility near Frederick, "is making ends meet and has increased food and beverage sales [at her bar-restaurant]. Overall, I'm pleased with the way things are going."

Laurel/Pimlico track operator Joe De Francis said Burton's business volume is "dead-on with our projections. It is basically a harness facility located in Standardbred country [on the Eastern Shore], and, of course, Cambridge has nowhere near the population base surrounding it as the Cracked Claw."

Tom Lattanzi, OTB coordinator for Laurel/Pimlico, said that his studies show that about 50 percent of the business at the Cracked Claw, located in Urbana, about 20 minutes from Gaithersburg, comes from wealthy Montgomery County.

Burton, who operates the smallest of the state's three OTBs, has fewer expenses, employing fewer tellers and security personnel than the outlet in Frederick and at Poor Jimmy's Family Restaurant near Elkton.

Laurel/Pimlico officials met with Burton in Cambridge yesterday to discuss marketing and promotional ideas to try to bring more people into the parlor, including stepped-up advertising programs.

De Francis said Poor Jimmy's is doing "about what we expected, but that the Cracked Claw [which averages about $105,000 total daily handle] has far exceeded expectations."

Since Maryland's off-track betting network started about seven months ago, a total of $28 million has been wagered through the system.

The size of the operation is expected to double next year with additional facilities coming on line at Colonial Beach, Va., Hagerstown and Kent Island.

The Maryland Racing Commission is expected to hold a hearing in January to listen to public sentiment regarding the proposed Riverboat-on-the-Potomac restaurant site in Colonial Beach, which is located on a pier in Maryland waters of the Potomac.

Ted Snell, president of Rosecroft/Delmarva, said that while on-track business at his tracks has suffered, an overall increase in handle this year is partly attributable to the OTBs. "Simulcasting and OTBs, that is what is keeping our business going," he said. Snell added that figures from the off-track sites show about the same 3-to-1 thoroughbred-to-harness-business ratio that is prevalent in the state's entire horse gambling industry, although business at the The Shoals is split about 50 percent thoroughbreds and 50 percent harness.

De Francis said the OTB network "is a resounding success. On-track attendance for us is about the same as last year, and the new sites have done what they are supposed to do -- increase our fan base."

AmTote contract signed

De Francis acknowledged yesterday that Laurel/Pimlico has signed a new five-year contract with AmTote International, the pari-mutuel supply firm that provides the tracks with betting equipment.

The former contract ended late last year, but AmTote has been providing services on a good faith-basis since then, including the installation in January of the new Spectrum system that allows for multiple wagers from a number of different tracks.

New Saturday post

Post time for Saturday live racing cards is noon, starting today.


Daytime thoroughbred statistics *

Parlor ... ... ... ... ... ... Days ... ... Total Bet ... ... ... Avg.

Cracked Claw (Frederick) ... 167 .. .. .. $13,689,212 ... .. .. $81,971

Poor Jimmy's (Elkton) .. .. .. 142 .. .. .. $5,076,704 ... ... .. $35,751

The Shoals (Cambridge) ... ... 72 ... .. .. $833,466 ... ... ... $11,575

Night Standardbred statistics

Parlor ... ... ... ... ... ... Days ... ... Total Bet ... ... ... Avg.

Cracked Claw (Frederick) ... 171 ... .. .. $4,116,439 .. .. ... $24,073

Poor Jimmy's (Elkton) .. .. .. 141 ... .. .. $3,376,236 .. .. ... $23,995

The Shoals (Cambridge) ... ... 74 ... ... .. $740,981 ... ... ... $10,013

* - Includes afternoon Freehold harness simulcasts

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