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New gambling center nears completion at fairgrounds; Facility opens Aug. 13 next to Agri-Center

Construction on a $25 million building that will more than double the size of Fairgrounds Gaming in Hamburg should be completed in about two weeks.

All 950 video gambling machines -- the modern-day slot machines -- from the current gambling center will be moved to the new center, which is being built adjacent to the Agri-Center off South Park Avenue.

A corridor will connect the new gambling rooms to the Agri-Center, said Dennis R. Lang, chief executive officer of the Erie County Agricultural Society, which owns the fairgrounds.

He said events like Cruise Night at the gambling center, which have to be canceled in poor weather, could be moved inside to the Agri-Center when it rains.

The new building will have more amenities than the current center, which opened in 2004 next to Buffalo Raceway as the region's first "racino," Lang said. It will have a buffet, private dining room, deli, bar and entertainment stage with seating for about 150.

The clubhouse at the raceway is equipped with a bar and restaurant during racing season.

The current gambling center, which attracts about 3,500 players a day, will close at midnight Aug. 7, Lang said. Crews will work around the clock to move the gambling machines and install them in the new center, on the other side of the grounds.

The new gambling center is scheduled for a "soft opening" at 5 p.m. Aug. 13, during this year's Erie County Fair, which starts Aug. 11.

The grand opening will take place Labor Day weekend, Lang said.

The new center will have about 58,000 square feet of gambling and entertainment space and 17,000 square feet of office space, compared with the current center's 25,000 square feet for gambling and entertainment and 10,000 for office.

Racinos were created to help the horse-racing industry by generating revenue that could be used for purses. A percentage of each dollar bet at the racino is put aside for prize money paid to winning horses. Lang said it is believed that moving the center will help the raceway by producing more revenue. There will be a van carrying visitors to both sites, he added.

Approximately one million people attend events at the Agri-Center each year.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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