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Raising the Stakes in West Virginia

Raising the Stakes in West Virginia

Big Improvements and Hot Technology Elevate Gaming at Charles Town

By Carrie O’Brien | Photography courtesy of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

West Virginia might be wild and wonderful, but Hollywood
Casino at Charles Town Races is wonderful in a decidedly di­fferent way—it’s a
bastion of silver-screen glamour and gaming technology.

In the last year, a $40-million expansion added a luxury
steakhouse that uses iPads to showcase their wine list, a live music lounge and
a sports bar with ­ at-screen televisions and touch-screen remotes at every
table.

And this just tops off Hollywood Casino’s amazing offering
of fun and games. Starting July 2010, the casino rolled out table games that
include Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Mini-Baccarat and Pai Gow. Poker has its
own kingdom, the 30-table Poker Room that plays Limit and No-limit Texas
Hold‘em, Limit and Pot-limit Omaha 8 or better, and 7 Card Stud.

Add that to the 4,200 slot machines and the historic
racetrack, and Charles Town is quickly becoming a gaming destination that
competes with the biggest casinos in the country. “We’re proud to offer guests
variety,” says Al Britton, general manager. “There’s racing, table games,
restaurants, hotels and history.”

Located just over the state line in Jefferson County, W.
Va., and within an hour of Rockville, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
features more than 200,000 square feet of gaming space luxuriously appointed in
an Art Deco, old-Hollywood theme. The gaming ­ floor meanders through different
Hollywood genres, billboards for soon-to-be-released movies hang from the
ceiling, and a 34-foot-long video ribbon board shows movie trailers.
Touch-screen kiosks located throughout the casino direct you to desired games
and offer information about the casino, dining choices, area attractions and
history.

Upping the Ante
No matter what kind of luck you’re having at Hollywood Casino, there’s one
thing you can count on: You won’t go home hungry. Staples include the Epic Buffet
with more than 150 food offerings and a Vietnamese pho soup bar, the food court
adjacent to the casino ­floor, and the Skyline Terrace that overlooks the
racetrack. But for a special treat, consider one of the casino’s three new
dining options: the H Lounge, The Skybox Sports Bar or The Final Cut.

The sophisticated H Lounge is located adjacent to the casino’s
table game party pit, and The Skybox Sports Bar is perched above the H Lounge,
giving both areas a view of the action at the tables in the party pit.

The H Lounge features a square-shaped bar, a cushioned
seating area for VIPs, a dance ­ floor and an entertainment stage for cover
bands, regional acts, DJs or karaoke. A video wall behind the stage is composed
of 18 ­ at-screen televisions. “We use Iced Cobra beer taps at the bar, and
they are so cold that they develop frost on them,” says Jon Hall, promotions
and events administrator.

The Skybox Sports Bar also has that hip and sophisticated
feel, but with a focus on sports and that guy obsession—big televisions.
“What’s really neat are the individual TVs at the booths and tables that allow
you to touch whatever channel icon you want,” says James Boutcher, vice
president of operations. “You don’t have to remember a number, you just hit the
icon.”

Twelve display cases feature memorabilia from area teams—the
Orioles, Capitals, Redskins, Nationals and more. Patrons can access information
on all items through interactive LCD screens.

The Skybox offers traditional pub fare, but the
gastronomically adventurous may want to try The Beast, a two-pound beef
hamburger fixed with a head of lettuce and half-pound of bacon and served on a
loaf of focaccia bread. The Beast comes with a pound of French fries and a
challenge: Anyone who can finish The Beast in one hour receives their meal for
free, a t-shirt and much-coveted bragging rights. To date, 48 people have tried
to slay The Beast, but only one has succeeded.

For High Rollers
A third new dining option is The Final Cut. Intimate and old-Hollywood themed,
this premium steakhouse seats 100 and is decorated with movie-star wardrobe
displays that highlight the  finery of
Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Sophia Loren, Kim Basinger, Angelina
Jolie and others. “It’s the little things at Final Cut that make it really
special,” says Ti‑ any Lawrence, marketing and public relations manager. If you
forget your reading glasses, they’ll lend you a pair. If you’re chilly, they’ll
get you a shawl. If you order iced tea, your ice cubes will be made of tea
also.

Rounding out The Final Cut’s thoughtful details is the
award-winning wine list delivered via iPad. “The iPad is a fun touch,” says
Boutcher. “They’re interactive, and it makes the wine list very easy to look
through by country, region or type.”

The Final Cut offers more than 250 wines and received the
Award of Excellence from The Wine
Spectator
. The dinner menu features naturally aged USDA Midwestern prime
beef, American Kobe beef, Colorado lamb, Duroc pork, free-range chicken, wild
salmon, coldwater lobster, sushi-grade Ahi tuna and seasonal shellfish that is
delivered daily.

A Gaming Tradition
George Washington’s youngest brother, Charles Washington, founded Charles Town
in 1786, and is said to have raced horses down Main Street in his day.

A lot has changed since then, but racing has remained. The
racetrack opened in 1933 and was a huge success despite running through the
height of the Great Depression. Slots were added in 1997 and table games in
2010, but horse racing is still a popular mainstay.

The 153-room Inn at Charles Town overlooks the racetrack,
and guests can watch the thoroughbreds’ morning workouts and races from their
rooms. “The horsemen come by with the horses in the morning and interact with
the people having breakfast,” says David Brower, director of hotel operations.

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