DOVER, Del. -- Hailed as the saviors of the state's racing industry, slot machines are scheduled to open at two Delaware racetracks on Friday, Dec. 29.
The opening comes after months of writing regulations, a tedious contracting process for leasing the machines and an extensive round of testing of the 1,215 machines at Dover Downs in Dover and Delaware Park in Stanton.
"The testing we were involved with took longer than maybe we anticipated," Wayne Lemons, state lottery director, said Wednesday. "We think that it was the prudent thing to do to make sure everything was working properly."
The slots will generate money that can be used to increase racing purses, or prize money, for the horse owners, according to racetrack officials. Bigger purses attract better horses and better horses bring the racing crowd back.
The tracks stand to receive 61.7 percent of the $55 million in net proceeds expected to be earned by the slots in fiscal year 1997, according to state figures. The state will get 14.7 percent, 13.3 percent will go to the cost of equipment and 10.3 percent will go to the track associations for purses.
The casinos will stay open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday.
Dover Downs, which houses 500 slots, planned to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by politicians and business leaders, said Denis McGlynn, the racetrack's president. The track will be open after 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Track officials hoped to have around 2,000 customers per day. The casino can hold 2,500 people.
"We've been getting 130 calls a day from people wanting to know when it's going to open," McGlynn said. "I think there is pent-up demand."
Dover Downs' casino was built in front of the racetrack's main grandstand. Caesars World Gaming Development Co. planned to operate the slot machines.
Delaware Park, which has 715 machines, was going to have a low-key opening day, said John Curran, a track spokesman. Racetrack officials didn't want overflowing crowds which could cause long waits and discourage customers.
The track hoped to have between 2,000 and 5,000 customers. The slot machines were to open 8 a.m. Friday.
"We're not really marketing heavily," Curran said. "We've been playing it down."
If there are lines to use the machines, gamblers may have to take numbers and wait in the grandstand until their number is called, McGlynn said.
The state lottery office supervised a two-hour "stress test" of the slot machines last week. Only minor glitches were found such as a few machines that wouldn't take quarters and a communication problem between Delaware Park and the state lottery office.
"We're ready," McGlynn said. "We're in a three-point stance ready for the hike."
The Associated Press
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