01/29/2004 12:00AM

Saratoga slots draw 10,000

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Approximately 10,000 people visited Saratoga Gaming and Raceway on Wednesday, opening day of the harness track's slot-machine operation, officials for the track said Thursday.

Saratoga opened Wednesday at 10 a.m. and took bets at slot machines until 2 a.m. Thursday. The racetrack spent $15 million over the past several months renovating part of its grandstand to house 1,300 machines.

Saratoga was the first racetrack in the state to open a casino. Legislation passed in 2001 allowed eight racetracks - Aqueduct, Finger Lakes and six harness tracks - to operate slot machines seven days a week, with much of the proceeds going to the state's educational fund. Some of the revenue will also go to purses.

A spokeswoman for Saratoga Gaming, Beth Wendell, said the company has decided not to release the amount of money bet through the machines.

Finger Lakes is scheduled to open its casino on Feb. 11. Finger Lakes is owned by Delaware North Companies, which has a management contract to operate slots at Saratoga and Buffalo Raceway in upstate New York.

Aqueduct is not expected to begin operating slot machines until the last quarter of 2004, according to officials at the New York Racing Association, which operates the track.