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Charles Town, just horsing around.

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by easystreet57, Sep 14, 2014.

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  1. easystreet57

    easystreet57 Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    My Trip Report

    Hello friends, I wanted to post a trip report from an overnight stay at “Hollywood Casino at the Charles Town Races.” Yes, a very long name for a really nice facility located in Charles Town, West Virginia. This is the panhandle region of W.VA, in the area where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia all come together, not too far from D.C. and south of the Central PA state line. It’s about a three hour ride from our home just west of Philadelphia.

    This was my second visit here, my GF son, who is a resident of the area is planning to wed a local girl so we have made a couple of trips to meet the family and for the ladies to do wedding planning. And talk about getting the short end, we book a room for the evening then I get “dumped” off at the casino in the morning, abandoned there till the GF returns after spending the day with the future daughter-in- law, planning , shopping and whatever they do to get ready a wedding. Gezzz…what we guys don’t have to put up with…

    The facility would fit the description of a “local casino” but it might well defy that title simply based on the size of the entire complex. Three semi-separate elements make up the campus which sits on beautiful acreage surrounded by small to medium towns and farm land. The complex is made up of the casino, a four story hotel, called the “Inn at Charles town” and a horse track, the Charles Town Races.

    IMG_20140911_081919.jpg

    The casino and the track are connected, the hotel is stand alone located on the highway frontage side of the facility. A shuttle bus is provided that runs every fifteen minutes or less, 24/7 365 days with no room key or ID needed.

    Although I am not an historian of the area, briefly, it went something like this, the horse track has always been there, and has been there for quite some time, the phrase “the Charles Town races” is part of the language around those parts, perhaps for generations. (There is a complete and accurate history available on the web if you search “Charles Town Races”, checkout the media guide link). Then when the state of West Virginia approved casino gaming, the casino was built on the grounds near/ next to the racetrack and of course the hotel was added last. The casino is, or appears to be, fairly large but it’s deceiving in its square footage because there is only one open area at the main entrance which contains almost all of the table games, maybe 15/20 tables, and the rest is a series of sections filled with slots, all with their own area names. Lots of twist and turns, very easy to get turned around inside the building. One of these areas, the “OK Corral”, has a bit of a Western theme and naturally, leads you into the racetrack area. The casino is part of the” Hollywood Casino” brand and thus has a” back in the day” movie décor with wall murals and posters as well as displays of old time professional movie equipment, cameras, lights, that sort of things. I found it to be a pleasant environment, clean and well maintained and like most casinos, the ratio of tables to slots about 100/1, with the penny variety being the most common. There are a small bars located throughout with one large lounge area complete with a stage where I suppose there is live entertainment on the weekends. Also, an Event Center for headline acts as well as a steakhouse, a buffet, a four stop food court plus a coffee and pastry offering in the center of a large seating area. The drink service I noticed was handled a bit differently, or at least differently to me in that the servers walked with an assortment of common drinks, beer, soda coffee and water, so if you were happy with something from the tray, it was no wait. If your choice was something else, they were reasonably quick to return with your special request.

    So our visit to Charles Town began when we arrived on this Wednesday a little before noon for a one night stay at the “Inn”. We had booked a room rate, based on an offer, based on the fact that we had only been here once before and our play was moderate at best. After booking through the email offer, more offers kept coming in as the stay date approached, with the new offers dropping the rate by nearly $40 dollars, more when you add in the 12% W.VA room tax, what?. Attempts to rebook on line got messy so I turned it over to GF who is much better with confrontations than I. There was none, one direct phone call to the desk cleared it up with the rate for our night would be the lowest one offered, no issues. The fourth floor (top floor) room we were given was the standard room with the normal stuff, plus a flat screen TV and a refrigerator. Clean and well stocked with towels and no tub, good, I prefer just a walk in shower. And one other feature, the view from the window was of the race track, it was right there, our room was no more than 25 yards from the back stretch and looking across we could see the entire clubhouse including the finish line, hum…now this is cool! “Yes Stu, That is cool!”

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    The race track, both in person and from the window, is a beautiful piece of property. Although it is officially ¾ of a mile in length, with off-shoots it can stage races up to 1 ½ miles in distance. It is a big a place. Listed as a “dirt” surface, the track is made up of this mustard colored sand that is just perfectly groomed, with not one grain out of place around the entire track and it is soft and fluffy, like a beach, as the horse’s hoofs are cover to their ankles when on the track. The power and the speed of the animals is much in evidence as you stand by the rail and watch the surface fly up 10/12 feet in the air as the field thunders past, really something to see if you ever have the opportunity. The grandstands and clubhouse are easily capable of providing both indoor and outdoor seating for thousands of spectators, with the infield, tote board, Victory circle and paddock area all clean and well cared for, a really nice place to hang out.
    My day wandering around the Hollywood casino was not profitable. With my limited bankroll, limited because I was trying to pace myself to have something left for when the GF returned, was fading quickly. My going in plan was to hang at the track during the bulk of the afternoon on the cheap, no charge to watch. What could go wrong? I checked the schedule before leaving and indeed Wednesday’s are race days …one detailed I missed, post time; 7 pm. Damm!

    IMG_20140910_182912.jpg

    I did the best I could to past the time while resisting the temptation to go “all in” with the slots. Lots of walking, sitting and strolls outside with every once in a while I would stop and “tickle” a machine only to get “slapped” in returned. I decided the $13.95 lunch buffet would be a good time killer so in I went and joined no more than twenty or so “buffeters” in the large room which could serve ten times that number. Another nice set-up with tables as well as several of those half circle booths with tufted high seat backs, ala a Hollywood scene, complete with large upright tulip lamps sprouting up from the seat base. Think “Boogie and Bacall”, “RKO Radio Pictures”, diamonds and white dinner jackets… can you see it?

    At less than fifteen dollars I was planning on just some average All American food but was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was a fairly nice spread, all you could ask for and more with some selection that could pass for dinner, not just lunch. The Swedish Meatballs in chocolate colored gravy almost became a problem as my mouth instructed me to keep them coming as the belly cried out “no more”.

    What do you call the worker at a buffet who greet you at your table and brings you drinks? The server? Well whatever the actual title, the woman who was mine was a ball of energy, and maybe should consider cutting back on the vitamins. From initial eye contact till I left, she never let up on tending to me, starting with a complete description of every item up at the buffet, including location, and testimony of how tasty each would be when I finally got there, she went on for three or four minutes, how did she know I had nowhere to go! During the course of my meal, she must have stopped by 10 times with more drink, napkins and once she even brought me a brochure of the scheduled events and promotions for the upcoming month to browse while I ate. I am sure if I had dribbled, she would have been over to wipe my chin. And not just I, everyone in her sphere got the same attention even to the point of bringing desert items to a table of seniors, and waving to new arrivals to come sit in her section. Everyone she seen, she had a conversation with… She was amazing…not sure of her employee title, but I’ll call her “Charlie Hustle”. Her effort and enthusiasm earned her a higher than normal tip. No doubt her motivation….so good for her.

    So the day passed with the help of a late afternoon nap to the sounds of the grooming tractors intermittently passing under the window. Not that I was worn out from losing half my stash, that was no effort at all. The GF returned and we were able to get shuttled back in time for the first post. Nothing changed for me in terms of “luck”, although my sidekick was able to keep her head above water till mid-night when the day came to an end for us.

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    The early morning view in our window was a busy display of race horses being “breezed” around the track, maybe a dozen or more in various stages of running and trotting. A nice way to meet the day. The trip home was preceded with free breakfast in the lobby alcove, and then it was time to pack up and go till the return to the area for the wedding.
    Unfortunately, “Hollywood Casino at the Charles Town Races” is not part of any of the wedding plans, Bummer…Guess the name just wouldn’t fit on the invitations.

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. oldcrabtom

    oldcrabtom Low-Roller

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    Excellent review! Being here in Columbus, Oh it might not be too much of a run. Did you happen to notice the table minimums ?
     
  3. easystreet57

    easystreet57 Low-Roller

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    Hey “oldcrabtom”,

    I must tell you I failed to check-out the table minimums. So all I can do is start assuming now.

    Thinking back, this is the picture I get, maybe half or less of the tables in the main section were operating, those that were had some seats or spaces open at each, not a lot of excitement, mostly seniors, no “bangles”, just regular folks on this Wednesdays afternoon. I am thinking $5. Anything less, usually draws a full table and more attention. Higher minimums results in one or two folks at a table. So I am thinking somewhere in the middle. The evening was a lot more active at the tables, so maybe a $5 m could be happening then too, which would account for the decent crowd, but I don’t know anything for sure. Based on the little I do know, $5 is the low water mark, mid-day, mid-week, on the East Coast, heck to find a five dollar table in AC, it usually comes with big banners and advertizing like they are doing you huge favor. I will tell you that the entire setting at Charles Town is geared to those just stopping by for the races and a few hours of fun. The hotel is very nice but it is no “resort”, no pool or spa. You have a casino with 3200 slots and nearly a hundred tables, (I researched it since my TR post) a race track that operates at night with grandstands capable of holding thousands coupled with a hotel that would pass for any other roadside hotel chain, with maybe a hundred rooms, no “higher roller” suites either. What does that say about their market base? Local and low minimums?

    But if you’re thinking about rolling in there someday, I think you would have a good time particularly if anything about the horse track interests you. All of the facilities are nice as well as the general area surrounding the complex. It is easy to find, not all that far from Interstate 81, which I know you can get to from Ohio. Trying not to sound like an AAA advisor, exit at Martinsburg W.VA and follow rt. 9 to rt. 340, it on the corner.

    Thanks for your reply, sorry that I didn’t have a direct, or for sure answer for you. JW
     
  4. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

    Joined:
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    Very good report! But given WV laws regarding Video Poker (>95% return is generally illegal), you won't ever catch me there!
     
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