On the Beat 1/19

A day at the races

By Jim Bucher

I’ve never been a huge gambler. Sure, I’ve battled a few one-armed bandits in my time, but I always seem to leave with less than what I had when I arrived. So when Ohio voters okayed Casinos, or ‘Racinos’ if you will, the concept intrigued me. So, after a quick phone call to my friend Jerry Abner, director of marketing at Miami Valley Gaming in Lebanon, he invited me for a fun night of wine, women and song. Well, one of those is correct.

Miami Valley Gaming, located at I-75 and Rt. 63, is a 186,000-square-foot, $215 million Vegas-style casino—oops, I mean racino—with all the amenities you could ask for.

Upon arrival and entering the gaming floor I’m struck by the sights and sounds. The clanging of the VLT’s (Video Lottery Terminals—can’t use the word “slots”), the lights, the action, the friendly atmosphere and what seems like a million flat screen televisions. After a pleasant greeting from the staff, I connect with Jerry and head over to the wonderful Acres Seasonal Buffet to sit for a chat.

“We opened right before Christmas 2013 and it’s hard to believe it’s been three years,” Jerry says.

Time does fly when you’re having fun, and tonight is an extra special evening because it’s Miami Valley Gaming’s turn to host live harness racing.

“For us it’s harness racing, the type of racing we’re licensed to have,” Jerry continues. “The same racing as at the old Lebanon Raceway before we opened here. Our purses went up 30 percent—that’s directly tied to our success on the VLT side, but when you have bigger purses you have the best horses, best trainers and drivers which translates to the best racing for the fans.”

After a great meal—and not going back for seconds, which is tough at a marvelous and over-the-top-in-a-good-way buffet (by the way, try the Oysters Rockefeller)—we venture to the race track’s indoor viewing grandstands. I’m struck by the families enjoying a night out together.

“Our grandstand is an open-to-all-ages venue. In Ohio, you have to be 18 to wager on the horses, the gaming floor 21. As long as a minor is accompanied by an adult they’re welcome in the grandstands. Kids love to see the horses,” Jerry says.

It’s almost post time and hush befalls the crowd. And they’re off! It’s almost more fun to watch the crowd reaction instead of the race itself. Down the stretch they come!

With that call fans began hootin’ and hollerin’ and standing on their feet rooting their horse to the finish line. It really is exciting, but what’s nice is even a beginner like me can figure it out … with a little help, of course.

“Live tellers are here to help and assist in any way. If you’re a first-timer then I suggest the live tellers. They’re here to help and explain it all. Or you can do it all electronically. We also have a guide to wagering pamphlet that breaks it all down,” Jerry adds.

After a couple of races, Jerry invites me to ride in the starting game truck. This is really cool contraption. We start out slow and pick up speed to 35 mph. These beautiful, majestic animals are incredible at a full gallop, from inches away from the gate. This is nice because normally I’m behind the ponies in life. This time I’m in front and not worrying about where or what I’ll stand in.

After two races it was time to bid adieu. But before I could go, my last question to Jerry before the short drive back to Dayton was this: With all the casinos around (some closer to my home), why should I head down this way?

“It certainly is the hospitality business and we strive every day for exceptional service. There’s plenty of competition out there, but we like to think we set ourselves apart from the others with a really nice first class facility. We get rave reviews on how clean our property is. For the vast majority of people it’s entertainment, and there’s a lot of choices to spend your dollars and we appreciate folks spending some with us,” he says.

I got out of here without stepping in anything undesirable.

Cheers,

Buch

For more information, visit miamivalleygaming.com.

For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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