BANGOR, Maine — A small contingent of gamblers got a preview of Hollywood Slots’ new simulcast racing hub on the eve of the operation’s grand opening, which is set for noon Tuesday.
Five gamblers sat at long tables in the newly finished Race Book Lounge, located just off the slots facility’s main floor, watching a bank of television screens. The largest monitor featured a live race from Chester, Pa., at Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack.
Hollywood Slots hopes the more visible location will create new fans for Maine’s horse-racing industry. Building up the popularity of harness racing in the state has been a goal since Penn National, the parent company of Hollywood Slots, purchased the Bangor raceway in 2005.
“We promised to work hard to revitalize the horse-racing industry in Maine,” Hollywood Slots General Manager John Osborne said during a press conference Monday. “I’m proud to say we’ve kept that promise.”
Legislation passed in June allowed for the move without forcing Hollywood Slots to change its classification from simulcast to off-track-betting facility, which would have meant less of a contribution to Maine’s harness racing industry.
The simulcast facility across the street at the Bangor Raceway will remain open and will take bets during race days, according to Hollywood Slots spokesman Dan Cashman.
During the off season, the Hollywood Slots location will serve as the hub for showing and taking bets on thoroughbred and harness racing across the nation.
“Here you can see races from across the country,” said Dale Reynolds, 52, of Orrington, who said he visits Hollywood Slots’ simulcast facilities four or five times each week.
Reynolds said he expects race betting to grow more popular now that it’s located among the bustle of the casino’s slot machines.
He said he has been watching horse races since he was 12 years old, and the fact that he can watch a race simulcast from California while sitting in a chair just a few miles from home makes betting and viewing races year-round much easier.
But that access to seemingly limitless races means there are many more horses, riders and statistics to keep track of, he said.
When there aren’t races to show, some of the lounge’s televisions will show other sports events, such as the World Series or University of Maine football games, according to Cashman.
Osborne said he hopes the new simulcast room will not be the final addition to Hollywood Slots’ offerings.
On Nov. 8, voters in Penobscot County will decide whether to allow table games at the facility. The casino and Race Book Lounge were decorated with several posters, banners and signs calling for a “yes” vote for table games on next week’s ballot.
Hollywood Slots projects that table games would produce 89 new jobs, with about $4 million in salaries and benefits, and would contribute more than $1 million annually to Maine’s General Fund.
Blackjack, poker and roulette offerings would increase traffic in the casino and bring more attention and fans to the races, according to Osborne.
“With the addition of table games at Hollywood Slots, more folks will be coming through the doors, and in turn more people will be able to watch harness racing and experience simulcast wagering,” he said.
The new simulcast room will be open from noon to midnight daily.