A half-hour before, she had told her husband of 57 years, Manny, to bet the No. 2 horse in the fourth race on a Thursday evening at Charles Town Races. Manny agreed but changed his mind as he took his two dollars to the betting window. Now, as the No. 6 horse she picked crossed the finish line first in the fifth race, [Ruth Hershkowitz] beamed at Manny, who bounced eagerly with the winning ticket in hand.
Charles Town Races is winning, as well. The thoroughbred racetrack, which first opened in 1933 and is about 30 miles west of Leesburg, is enjoying its most prosperous period thanks to the recent addition of slot machines. The gaming aspect has lured thousands of patrons to the track and turned them on to horse racing, a sport that was in a spectacular decline from the mid-1980s.
In 1997, after it closed for two months, Charles Town Races was sold to Penn National Gaming, which installed slot machines. The track's image improved instantly. The slot machines are state regulated and are considered part of the West Virginia Lottery. Moreover, the gaming enterprise has helped racing stave off what appeared to be an imminent death.
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