Corporate Name: PNGI Charles Town Gaming LLC
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 551, Charles Town, West Virginia 25414
Street Address: 750 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town, WV 25414
Telephone: (800) 795-7001
Fax: (304) 725-6979
Founded by Albert Boyle as The Shenandoah Jockey Club, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races became America’s first winter race meet upon opening in December of 1933. Since then, the West Virginia oval has been transformed into a premier regional destination.
In 1960, the Charles Town grandstand and clubhouse were completely enclosed and heated. J. Edgar Hoover was a regular visitor to the track and, on April 27, 1960, John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, made an appearance at a Democratic rally during his campaign for presidency. Years later, a record crowd of 21,480 would pack Charles Town to watch the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns boxing match on closed circuit television.
The Charles Town track was sold to Shenandoah Corporation in 1972, which closed the competing track, Shenandoah Downs, in 1975. Year-round racing was moved to Charles Town and was followed by the introduction of live Sunday cards in 1979.
By the 1990s, the track fell on hard times. Purses were low and the future looked dim. In 1995, the racetrack was put up for sale. Penn National Gaming stepped forward in an effort to save Charles Town. Following a November 1996 vote authorizing video lottery terminals at the track, Penn finalized its purchase of the facility. On September 10, 1997, the first 220 video lottery terminals at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races began operating.
Following the purchase by Penn National Gaming, new barns were built and old barns were repaired. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races now stands as a world-class resort destination that includes 2,750 slot machines, 98 table games, 26 poker tables, along with live and simulcast Thoroughbred horse racing year-round, in a safe and hassle-free environment. Amenities include a luxury hotel, a 1,200-seat Event Center and award-winning dining options, including Final Cut Steakhouse.
In addition to the local economy, the West Virginia horsemen were the biggest winners during Charles Town’s expansion. Daily purses increased to a six-figure amount and now hover around $125,000 per race day, despite the track conducting nearly 200 days of live racing this year. The lucrative West Virginia Breeders’ Classics, founded in 1987 by NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff, offered more than $1.2 million in purses to the connections of West Virginia-bred horses in 2014. The $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, was won by Charitable Annuity.
In 2009, Charles Town inaugurated what would become its richest and signature event when the Charles Town Classic was contested for the first time. In a short time frame, the Charles Town Classic has grown in stature on the national racing scene and, with its current purse of $1,250,000, stands as the country’s co-richest Thoroughbred horse race outside of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup. The Charles Town Classic and the accompanying undercard races are the six highest handling single day programs in track history.
In 2011, the Charles Town Classic became the track’s first ever graded race as a Grade III, producing a field that more than justified its new grading. With the entire gate filled by graded stakes winners, the race included three eventual Eclipse Award finalists for older male champion in Acclamation, Game on Dude, and Tizway – the only time all three would meet on the track that year.
Following an upgrade to Grade II status in 2012, the Charles Town Classic received a purse increase to $1.5 million for the next three editions. In the 2015 Charles Town Classic, Moreno stormed home to a 2¼-length win after the favored Shared Belief was pulled up midway through the contest. The 2015 Charles Town Classic card also set an all-sources handle record for the track, with $4,847,106 in wagering, besting the prior mark of $4,398,985 set on Charles Town Classic day in 2013. There was $2,423,332 bet on the Charles Town Classic itself, which represents a larger handle than any other full, non-Charles Town Classic card in the 83 year history of the track.
In addition to the Charles Town Classic, the track added a second graded stakes race to its calendar in 2014 when the Charles Town Oaks was awarded Grade III status for its 2014 running. In 2015, the Charles Town Oaks carried a purse of $350,000 and was won by Sheila Rosenblum’s Hot City Girl over the Todd Pletcher trained Temper Mint Patty. The Charles Town Oaks was again part of the Race for the Ribbon program with events raising money for breast cancer research and care being held throughout the day.
All told, the aggregate pari-mutuel handle for the three marquee events at the track in 2015 increased 25% over 2014. In doing so, the Charles Town Classic, Race for the Ribbon, and West Virginia Breeders’ Classics programs were key drivers in Charles Town ultimately producing an average all-sources handle per race of $111,664 – the highest amount in Charles Town’s history.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races’ parent company, Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PNGI), is the largest operator of pari-mutuel facilities in North America. PNGI operates 12 pari-mutuel facilities in 10 different states, including Thoroughbred tracks Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course (host of the new Grade III Penn Mile), Sam Houston Race Park (host of the Grade III John B. Connally and new Grade III $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic) and Zia Park Casino, Hotel and Racetrack (host of the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks).
PNGI’s portfolio also includes five off-track wagering facilities and two regional account wagering operations. In 2015, PNGI facilities conducted more than 1,150 live racing dates and processed nearly $1 billion in on-track, import, and export wagers. In 2016, PNGI tracks will host the third edition of the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge, featuring more than 20 stakes races with $5 million in purses – with starting incentives for owners and trainers and a year-end award for the leading owner, trainer and jockey in the series.
Senior VP of Regional Operations: John V. Finamore
General Manager: Albert T. Britton
General Manager of Racing Operations: Richard L. Moore
Vice President of Racing Operations: Erich Zimny
Vice President of Public Affairs: Roger R. Ramey
Vice President of Marketing: Susan O’Connell
Vice President & Chief Financial Officer: Thomas Weitnauer
Mutuel Manager: Joy Lushbaugh
Racing Secretary: Charlie McIntosh
Director of Security Operations: Brian Ward
Track Maintenance Manager: Douglas Bowling
Simulcast Contact: David Koepp, (717) 469-3368
Track Photographer: Coady Photography
Track Data: 3/4-mile dirt oval with chutes for 4½ and 7-furlong races
Seating Accommodations: Grandstand seating and tables on first-come, first-serve basis; Skyline Terrace Dining Room overlooking clubhouse turn; simulcast theater seating on first floor
Price of Admission: Patrons admitted free of charge
Dress Code: Proper attire in grandstand; no undershirts or tank tops in Skyline Terrace
Minimum Age Admitted: No patrons under 21 are permitted on the gaming floor at any time; patrons under 21 allowed on the racing side; those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult
Parking Facilities: 5,000 covered and 1,000 surface lot spaces
Simulcast Information: Full-card simulcasting from North American and selected international tracks 365 days a year