Del. Park to get slots this summer

January 22, 1995|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

One-thousand slot machines are likely to be installed and in use at Delaware Park by midsummer, says Steve Kallens, the track's newly re-hired director of marketing.

Rules and regulations governing management of the machines have just about been completed by Delaware's lottery commission, which will oversee their use, and renovations have begun at the track for their installation.

The slots are the first of two tests of increased competition that the Maryland tracks will face this year.

The other is Penn National's new off-track betting parlor in York, Pa., a plush, 25,000-square-foot facility expected to open in mid-March. The parlor, located in a shopping center on Route 30 off I-83, is about 15 miles from the Maryland line in northern Baltimore County. It is considered a prime location to draw potential simulcast customers away from Pimlico Race Course.

"There will be two amphitheaters outfitted with large TVs, a formal and another less informal dining area, a sports bar and plenty of other areas equipped with TVs and desks for the fans," said Fred Lipkin, Penn National's public relations director. "We'll offer the full simulcast menu that is now available at Penn National."

In response, Laurel/Pimlico management has started long-awaited talks with Timonium Race Course in an effort to build an OTB center at the state fairgrounds.

It is still too early to determine when the Timonium outlet will open and how extensive the operation will be, said Laurel/Pimlico president Joe De Francis.

One of the prime items to be considered is whether a state-of-the art facility should be built next to the existing grandstand or if a more conservative approach should be taken and a part of Timonium's existing structure be re-modeled.

Lipkin said Penn National's two other OTB outlets, in Reading, Pa., and Chambersburg, Pa., are partly responsible for the track's recent 18 percent increase in purses. "We went from a $41,000 daily purse distribution in 1993 to $52,000 a day last year," Lipkin said.

Unlike Maryland, where only one of four OTB outlets, the Cracked Claw near Frederick, has been a resounding success, the Pennsylvania tracks have received real boosts from their off-track outlets.

At Delaware Park, Kallens said it is hoped that the slots will increase purses to about $85,000 daily, in the range of rival track Philadelphia Park.

Kallens had left Delaware a couple of years ago and, after stints in marketing at Turf Paradise in Phoenix and at Philadelphia, returned to Delaware.

"I couldn't get this place out of my system," he said. "There's no other track quite like it. It always has been a fun, comfortable place for fans and has quite a history. It's going to be an exciting time to be here with the introduction of slots."

Kallens said the second floor of the grandstand is being gutted to accommodate the machines. "Racing will be available in the area and fans will also be able to walk outside and see the races. There will be lounges and bars and a good restaurant. The present clubhouse," he added, "will be reserved for racing."

Horsemen will receive a percentage of the gaming revenues "and increased purses will help us increase the quality of our live racing. That will help in selling our signal," Kallens said. "The slots will draw a new audience. It's a simple, easy way to gamble and that's what people want. We're hopeful the slot player becomes a horse player. That's our marketing challenge."

Delaware opens April 15

Delaware Park will open its live racing season a few weeks later than usual this spring in a rare cooperative effort with Philadelphia Park.

The live meet, offering racing four days a week, begins April 15 and runs through Nov. 5.

Since Delaware will be opening later, Philadelphia has agreed to shut down for a month, or possibly three weeks in August, pending negotiations with its horsemen. Philadelphia ran a similar 1994 schedule.

"I wouldn't say we're exactly working together, but we are taking small steps in that direction," said Kallens.

Boniface nominates three

When the first round of Triple Crown nominations closed yesterday, at least one Maryland trainer was well-represented in the list of nominees.

Billy Boniface of Darlington named a trio of 3-year-olds -- Oliver's Twist, Ops Smile and Lawyer Referral, all currently stabled at Gulfstream Park.

Undefeated Oliver's Twist is nominated to run Saturday in the Hutcheson Stakes, but probably will wait for an allowance prep before starting in the Feb. 18 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Ops Smile, a Caveat colt owned by Jim Ryan of Mount Airy, broke his maiden on opening day at Gulfstream and then finished second in the Mac Diarmida Stakes. He is a brother of multiple stakes winner Icy Warning.

After finishing a close third in his debut at Laurel, Lawyer Referral made his second start last week at Gulfstream, but didn't fare too well. He finished sixth for a $50,000 tag.

The full list of initial Triple Crown nominations has yet to be released by Triple Crown Productions.

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