THB, Banditos, Wayward and more confirmed for Cosmic Cocktail!

Slots coming, but tastefully

THE BALTIMORE SUN

STANTON, Del. -- Bill Rickman Jr. seems determined to make his slot machine emporium, which opens in about two months at Delaware Park, as tasteful as possible.

Construction on the 65,000-square-foot facility, located on the second floor at the north end of the track's cavernous grandstand, is proceeding on schedule for an early fall opening. Sept. 29 has been given as an opening date, but is not being strictly adhered to.

Although far from finished, the rudiments of the gambling area, which will house up to 1,000 slot machines, embrace a Victorian theme -- lots of wood paneling, antique brass fittings and a turn-of-the-century motif that the track president says fits Delaware Park's rich tradition.

A key component of the gaming hall will be a race book area, devoted to simulcasts in a lush setting.

Possible expansion onto the first floor, which will be outfitted with glass panels from the defunct Brandywine Raceway, has been built into the plans.

Total cost of the project, which also includes revamping and landscaping parking lots and entrances, is said to be between $5 million and $10 million.

Projected daily handle from the slots, which will be open 18 hours a day, is approximately $4 million, of which 10 percent will be channeled into purses for the track's races, which are run 132 days a year.

Rickman is trying to maintain a low-key approach to the opening of the gaming complex and seems frustrated that so much media attention is focused on the project. He is perhaps casting a wary glance at neighboring states such as Maryland, which is considering the introduction of similar gaming operations. The marriage of racetracks and casinos is the hottest issue confronting the horse industry nationally.

Rickman's father, Bill Rickman Sr., admonished a reporter "not to write anything" about the slots.

The word "casino" is also stricken from the track's vocabulary. The track's letterhead reads, "Delaware Park Racetrack and Slots."

An official said yesterday that the mood at the track is upbeat. "We're about ready to explode in anticipation of what this can mean for the future of this track," said Steve Kallens, Delaware's marketing director.

He looked out on the variety of activities, such as a quarter horse exhibition race and demonstrations by Arabians and carriage horses that were offered on "Delaware Handicap Day," and said, "This is just a prep for next year. This is going to be big. Next year, we'll have the infield open."

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