Having read about the soft opening today of OTB’s new facility at 711 Central Avenue, I swung by to have a look. Like the old facility, the new one is divided into two areas — “grandstand,” where admission is free and payouts are subject to the 15% surcharge, and “clubhouse,” where admission is subject to a fee, but payouts are at track prices, and where there are dining options.
The grandstand was small, and obviously meant as a convenience for those stopping in to cash or buy tickets, though it did have seating and a number of large, flat-screen television monitors. It also had, unlike some other OTB facilities, men’s and women’s rest rooms. Were it not for the 15% surcharge, I’d rate this an acceptable outlet for racing fans.
The clubhouse was very nice — it had areas with tables, many individual carrels, and a bar, as well as an adjacent restaurant. The look was not unlike one of the nicer Las Vegas race books, which was the goal. If only admission, past performance information and drinks were free, as they usually are in Las Vegas, the place would be a dream come true. Even without the freebies, though, the clubhouse looks like a convenient, pleasant place to spend a few hours enjoying horse racing and wagering and a drink or two and a meal. I didn’t think the old Teletheater, which the clubhouse replaces, was that bad, but this definitely is a step up.
Whether it will be enough to attract new horse players, or keep existing ones, in the face of new competition for the gambling dollar we can soon expect in New York, remains to be seen. The newspaper story announcing the opening speculated that some of the tables in the clubhouse may give way to slot machines, and I think that’s a real possibility.