The History of Hollywood Casino

Since it was founded in 1933, the race track at Charles Town has seen- and made- history. During its 70-year run, the track has welcomed historical figures, teetered on the brink of collapse, and reemerged as a premiere gaming and entertainment facility.

The facility officially opened as Jefferson County Races on December 3, 1933. The original owners, Albert and Joseph Boyle, spent $160,000 – a huge sum during the height of the Depression – to build the facility.

The Boyles had bet that Charles Town would draw crowds as the only northern track to hold races during the winter season, and they were right. Even with freezing temperatures and odds being calculated by slide rule, the grandstand overflowed. Train service from Baltimore boosted attendance, and the track continued to thrive through World War II.

In 1954, Hall of Fame jockey Bill began his career here, going on to win 4,277 races, including nine Triple Crown races. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy held a large rally at the track in 1960, and J. Edgar Hoover was a frequent visitor during the era. In 1969, 19 year old Barbara Jo Rubin rode into history at Charles Town, becoming the first female jockey to win a pari-mutuel race in the United States.

In 1987, NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff organized the first West Virginia Breeders’ Classics. That year local favorite Onion Juice won the inaugural running and the state’s first $100,000 purse. Now the event boasts $1,000,000 in purses.

During the 1990s, purses fell, leading to dwindling attendance and fewer high-caliber horses. The track’s future was in serious doubt; as recently as 1996, observers feared the facility would close. Then, during the fall of 1996, voters approved video lottery machines at Charles Town. Penn National Gaming agreed to purchase the facility in 1997, and immediately began a $175,000,000 upgrade of the venue.

By 2004, Charles Town Races & Slots had added simulcast racing, numerous dining options, and 3,500 slot machines. Gaming boosted daily horse racing purses to more than $215,000 a day with each race averaging over nine starters.

In July 2010, Charles Town Races & Slots got a Hollywood Facelift - complete with renovations to the gaming floor that invokes the glitz and glamour of 1930s’ art deco Hollywood AND the addition of table games!

Today, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is a world-class entertainment venue featuring 3,500 slot machines, over 100 table games including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, live poker, Mini-Baccarat and Pai Gow Poker, live entertainment, a wide range of food and beverage choices, and live and simulcast horse racing. The facility’s ¾ mile surface now attracts some of the East Coast’s best trainers, horses and jockeys.

Key Facts

  • Located in Charles Town, West Virginia, the facility is within 60 miles of the Baltimore and Washington D.C. beltways and is the region’s largest venue. Approximately 10 million people live within 100 miles of Charles Town
  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is one of the fastest growing destinations in the region, drawing more than 3 million visitors every year.
  • The venue offers five themed gaming areas: Silver Screen Slots, OK Corral Slots, Slot City, Slot Central and Hollywood Slots.
  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is open for business 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is operated by Penn National Gaming, a publicly traded company specializing in gaming and horse racing facilities.