Virginia House OKs Expansion of OTB Network
Date Posted: 3/2/2004 1:37:20 PM

The Virginia House of Delegates approved legislation March 1 to allow the number of off-track betting parlors in the state to go from six to 10.

The House passed the measure on a 56-40 vote, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Colonial Downs is the only licensed pari-mutuel racetrack in the state, so it operates the parlors now in operation.

"We're just delighted," Virginia Racing Commission chairwoman Anne Poulson told the newspaper. "A solid OTB system will allow us to compete with other states."

The bill would allow the racing commission to authorize 10 licenses. Municipalities must first approve OTB facilities in a referendum.

Colonial Downs now operates five OTB parlors: two in Richmond, and others in Chesapeake, Hampton, and Brunswick County. A sixth, in Vinton, could open by the end of the year.

Proponents of OTB expansion noted the impact more revenue could have on purses and perhaps racing dates. This year's 34-day Thoroughbred season will run from June 10-July 26, while the 32-day Standardbred meet is set for Oct. 1-Nov. 22.

Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, however, said voters who endorsed horse racing in 1988 wanted to see live racing, not the proliferation of betting parlors. He called expansion of off-track betting "a terrible mistake."

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