Capital OTB’s new Clubhouse Race Book on Central Avenue only opened on New Year’s Day, but it’s already a hit.
“We had great crowds the first two days. Sunday, we had over 500 and Monday more than 300. The response has been well received,” said John Signore, president and CEO of Capital OTB.
Neil Benjamin, a Niskayuna resident and die-hard horse racing enthusiast, was one of the teletheater’s first customers. Already, he’s been there three times.
“It’s fantastic. It’s such an improvement in so many different ways from the old place,” said Benjamin. “I tell everyone this is really like a Las Vegas sports book, it really is.”
A Las Vegas atmosphere is exactly what Signor had in mind for the 23,000-square-foot facility, which is equipped with more than 240 flat screen TVs, the largest projector screens in the Capital District and a full bar and restaurant.
“It really provides customers with a Vegas-type atmosphere and in our view, it’s better than a lot of Las Vegas facilities,” said Signor. “I visited a number of casinos and OTB facilities … and tried to take the best I saw from each one of them and the result is this facility.”
Benjamin knows a thing or two about what makes an OTB facility great for hardcore racing fans. He’s been a “regular” at Capital District OTB since at least 1979 when he was a charter member of the now defunct Golden Horseshoe Club, and he occasionally travels out of town to get his fix.
The Clubhouse Race Book is a huge step up from what Benjamin is used to, since the previous facility was a bit dark and outdated.
“It’s bright, which is good for people like me who need to read the data and the racing form. They’ve got all these separate individual little cubicles for the real serious player with your own television. … They’ve got a ton of brand new self-betting machines,” said Benjamin. “They’ve gone to great lengths to change not only the building but the whole experience and environment.”
One of Benjamin’s pet peeves was access to information, but at the new teletheater his expectations are met.
“Now you have access to buy any kind of past performance that you need. There are many more options than you had before, which is important to horse players,” said Benjamin.
Benjamin’s avid interest in and approach to horse racing isn’t an anomaly at Capital OTB but it’s the length of his affair with the pastime that causes pause.
“My father first took me to Saratoga when I was 8 years old and I haven’t missed a year at Saratoga since,” said Benjamin.
The horse races are the main attraction for Benjamin but he’s also taken time to experience the new food options at the Clubhouse Race Book, something Signor said Capital OTB took great care revamping.
The same group that runs the area’s Recovery Room grills has taken charge of the teletheater’s food service. There’s a 50-foot mahogany bar, a casual area with high top and low top tables and an additional sports grill on site that seats 100 people and has wall-to-wall sports memorabilia.
Signor said the new teletheater “provides Capital Region sports fans and racing fans with a facility like no other” and he expects it to generate more business than the old facility.
“It’s beautiful where a family can go out and eat and sit next to an avid horseplayer and they can coexist,” said Signor.
“They hit a home run on this thing, in my opinion,” said Benjamin. “Even if you don’t like to gamble, go check it out because it’s a great place to watch a game or go for lunch or even if you want to play Quickdraw or buy scratchoffs.”
For more information about the Clubhouse Race Book, located at 711 Central Ave., visit www.capitalotb.com.