Instant Racing Bill Re-Introduced in Virginia

Old races may provide new funds to maintain Virginia roads should lawmakers pass a bill that has been re-introduced in the General Assembly.  A similar bill that had been submitted during the General Assembly’s special transportation session last September was passed over.

Under the proposal (H.B. 2824), Colonial Downs would be allowed to accept wagers at its New Kent County racetrack and nine OTBs on "historical horse races" – races that have been previously held at various licensed horse tracks. "Instant Racing" participants would be able to access certain handicapping data such as a jockey's winning percentages prior to placing a wager. After placing a wager, identifiable data such as the horse's name, jockey names would be released with patrons being able to watch the historical race on a monitor.

Instant Racing first originated at Arkansas' Oaklawn Park. Under the Virginia proposal, 49% of the takeout would be dedicated to the Commonwealth Transportation Trust Fund, which is used primarily for road maintenance, 45% assigned to Colonial Downs and 6% designated to purse accounts.

A separate bill (H.B. 2626) also has been introduced to allow temporary licenses for account wagering.  Should it become law, the bill could assist in bringing Youbet.com, believed to be accepting the largest amount of wagers in Virginia, into legal standing.

“It provides additional tools to regulate account wagering.  It comes into play when parties are unable to reach agreements on source market fees,” explained Stan Bowker, executive director of the Virginia Commission.  “Any company that does not have an agreement would be able to obtain a license legally while they continue to negotiate with Colonial Downs and the horsemen.”

Bowker added that Youbet.com is the only unlicensed company with an application pending but believes several other unlicensed companies are accepting wagers.  Under the new legislation, monies would be collected and then disbursed once an agreement has been achieved and approved by the commission.

In the same bill, a paragraph has been added that would prohibit retail establishments or licensees of Virginia’s ABC Board to participate in account wagering.  As a pilot project last year, Colonial Downs partnered with Chevy’s Restaurant and Night Club in Chesapeake, Va., to offer “express sign-up” for new account wagering patrons.  According to Colonial Downs’ officials, they withdrew the initiative unilaterally.

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, two commissioners switched roles with Peter Burnett being elected chairman and former chairman Mark Brown being elected vice-chairman.

Similar to last year, Colonial’s 40-day live meet begins June 15, racing Friday through Tuesday through Aug. 7.  The first two legs of Jacobs Investments Grand Slam of Grass have changed with the $750,000 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) set for June 16 and the $1 million Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) to be run July 21.  The $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington and the $3 million Breeder’s Cup Turf (gr. IT) complete the series that guarantees a $5 million payout to the winner of all four races.  Colonial’s stakes schedule introduces the $60,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf.

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