Bill Would Provide Funding for Virginia Group

Virginia Equine Alliance hopes to offer Thoroughbred racing in 2015.

Virginia legislators have advanced bills that would provide funding for the Virginia Equine Alliance, a non-profit group that could shape racing in the state.

The VEA includes the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Harness Horse Association, and the Virginia Gold Cup. It was formed in November following the decision by Colonial Downs to surrender its racing license and not conduct racing in 2015. 

Colonial did not offer Thoroughbred racing in 2014 because horsemen and track owner Jeffrey Jacobs couldn't reach an agreement on dates. Jacobs has pushed for a shorter meet with larger purses.

Current bills in the Virginia House and Senate would shift funding that formerly was sent to Colonial, as the racing license holder, to a "non-profit industry stakeholder organization," which would be the VEA. A fee of 9% of all ADW wagers made within Virginia has been split between horsemen and the racing license holder, which had been Colonial. 

The alliance envisions organizing racing as a non-profit corporation with associated charities being given the opportunity to raise funds through their participation on racing days. All net revenue from the planned not-for-profit model would be directed back into the industry. The Virginia HBPA reports that there is about $5 million in the purse fund from money not used for racing in 2014 and funds from ADW wagering.

The VEA said it would consider leasing the Colonial Downs property for racing in 2015 but said it's unclear about Colonial's stance. The VEA also is exploring the possibility of offering flat Thoroughbred racing at the 175-acre Great Meadow in 2015 and will examine other possible racing outlets.

The legislation in the House and Senate also would allow for new license holders of the state's nine off-track wagering facilities. Colonial Downs has been the license holder for live racing and the off-track outlets.

Also, the legislation adds clarity that the Virginia Racing Commission determines the recognized representative of horsemen in the state. The Virginia Racing Commission recognized the Virginia HBPA as the representative group of horsemen in the state last year when Colonial Downs pushed for a new horsemen's group.