Virginia governor endorses colonial downs legislation

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam reportedly signed legislation into law earlier this week that will see the eastern state’s shuttered Colonial Downs horseracing facility given permission to offer historical race wagering machines following its planned re-opening later in the year.

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According to a Monday report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, Colonial Downs is located some 30 miles east of Richmond but closed its doors in 2014 amid a financial dispute between owner Jacobs Entertainment Incorporated and groups representing Virginia’s thoroughbred horse trainers, owners and breeders. But, the Colorado firm is purportedly in the process of selling the New Kent County facility to Chicago-headquartered Revolutionary Racing and the new legislation is being widely seen as a significant sweetener to any such deal.

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The newspaper reported that Northam’s endorsement of House Bill 1609 means that Colonial Downs will be permitted to offer an unspecified number of historical race wagering terminals from July 1 while also specifically defining the machines as using parimutuel betting pools created ‘from wagers placed on previously conducted horse races’.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the Democrat additionally issued an executive directive that requires the Virginia Racing Commission regulator to place ‘reasonable limitations on the proliferation of gaming in Virginia’ as it implements the legislation following ‘extensive stakeholder and public engagement’.

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“I am hopeful that this legislation will reinvigorate the horse industry and allow thoroughbred racing to return to Virginia,” 58-year-old Northam reportedly told the newspaper.

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Citing a previous economic analysis from Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics, the newspaper reported that re-opening Colonial Downs this year could see the venue record operating revenues of around $203.7 million through 2022 with about $162 million of this coming from historical race wagering machines. It additionally detailed that the rejuvenated property may create up to 400 new jobs while generating more than $41.7 million in local and state taxes over the next five years in addition to benefitting the local horseracing industry annually to the tune of $18 million.

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that House Bill 1609 was first proposed by Michael Webert, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, in December with its recent gubernatorial endorsement welcomed by Debbie Easter, President for the Virginia Equine Alliance. She purportedly declared that the legislation will allow the state’s horseracing industry to ‘grow industry revenue, create a strong brand and develop regionally and nationally recognized racing venues’.

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“We thank the Governor and the Virginia General Assembly for recognizing the many horsemen and contributions they make in Virginia as well as the importance of our industry and the value it brings to local and regional economies and for the state,” Easter reportedly told the newspaper.

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the slot-like historical race wagering machines utilize video archives of earlier horse races and allow bettors to place wagers at a faster rate than is available via more traditional contests. It detailed that the terminals do not disclose the date or location of a race or the names of the runners until after a bet has been placed but do disclose the odds on every runner pre-wager.