Debate over proposed regulations for horse betting in Virginia

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Colonial Downs is sharing renderings of what a proposed horse betting parlor in Richmond would look like.

Colonial Downs said in July it is looking to transform the site of the old Kmart on Midlothian Turnpike near Chippenham Parkway into an off-track horse betting parlor.

READ: Colonial Downs wants to transform old Richmond Kmart into off-track horse betting parlor

Meanwhile, the Virginia Equine Alliance is suggesting changes to the Virginia Racing Commission’s proposed regulations on “historical horse racing” in the Commonwealth.

The General Assembly made historical horse racing legal in Virginia when they passed HB 1609 earlier in 2018. Sites would house slot-like betting machines that would allow people to bet on past horse races without knowing which horse they are betting on. 

The Alliance’s proposed changes focus on two sections of the regulations. 

Section 180 sets a limit on the number of betting machines at individual facilities, ranging from 150 to 700 terminals. That number would depend on a locality’s population.

1. Up to seven hundred (700) terminals in a jurisdiction with a population of 120,000 or greater;
2. Up to three hundred (300) terminals in a jurisdiction with a population between 60,000 and 120,000; and 
3. Up to one hundred fifty (150) terminals in a jurisdiction with a population of 60,000 or below. 

-Virginia Racing Commission proposed regulations

It also limits the total number of betting machines allowed across Virginia to 3,000. The Equine Alliance wants the flexibility to increase the total number of machines in the Commonwealth. 

“This is the most important flaw in the proposed regulations,” the Alliance said in its proposal.

The Alliance claims that number will not “sustain and expand Virginia’s horse industry.” The VEA wants discretion to expand the number of terminals after two years, if necessary. 

As to the number of machines allowed per locality, the VEA says an area’s population does not determine how many people will visit a betting facility there. The VEA wants to base the number of machines a locality can have on the area’s market conditions and revenue potential. 

Section 190 of the Racing Commission’s proposal requires that race track operators with historical horse racing terminals offer at least 14 to 30 days of live racing, depending on their number of betting machines.

Instead, the VEA wants to set the minimum number of live races per facility per year at 15 and suggests that the Commission have the discretion to change the number of races required at a facility. 

The Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing company bought the Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent for $20 million. They closed on the purchase in April. A study found reopening Colonial Downs should lead to the creation of over 1,400 new jobs, have an annual economic impact of $349.1 million and generate $41.6 million in annual state and local tax revenue. 

READ: ‘Dream come true’: Local reaction to purchase of Colonial Downs

There is no word yet on when the groups involved will come to an agreement on the regulations. To read the Racing Commission’s proposed rules, click here. To read the VEA’s proposed changes, click here

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