Instant Racing Bill Passes Virginia Senate

Instant Racing legislation has again passed the Virginia Senate.

The Virginia Senate has again approved legislation authorizing Instant Racing—wagering on historical races—but the bill’s reception in the House remains uncertain.

The Senate passed the bill Feb. 7 on a tight 21-19 vote after it sailed through the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology on a 14-0 vote Jan. 26, according to Virginia legislative records. The measure has passed the Senate before only to fail in the House.

Instant Racing machines, currently in use in Arkansas, resemble video lottery terminals but are pari-mutuel in nature because they rely on the results of previously run horse races, and all bets are pooled unlike video lottery terminals or slot machines.

A 2006 study referenced in a 2011 fiscal impact statement from the state Department of Planning and Budget claims about $660 million in revenue could be produced from 10,000 machines at 11 locations in Virginia—Colonial Downs and the off-track betting parlors it operates. The Virginia Racing Commission, however, believes no more than 1,500 machines would be used, and that revenue would total about $78 million.

The bill passed Feb. 7 gives 42% of the revenue to the state and 45% to the licensee. In addition, 6% would go to Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses (up to $30 million a year) and 2% to breed development, again no more than $30 million. The racing commission would determine the breed splits.

Based on the VRC estimates, purses would get $4.7 million a year, breed development programs $1.6 million a year, and Colonial Downs $35.2 million a year.

The VRC, which would develop regulations for Instant Racing, would get 0.5% of revenue from the machines, according to the legislation.