Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs

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Colonial Trims Staff, Closes OTB Parlor

Colonial Downs has trimmed staff and closed an off-track betting parlor.

Colonial Downs may be looking for a manager to operate its live Thoroughbred and harness meet after releasing general manager Iain Woolnough Nov. 10. It also closed one of its nine off-track betting parlors in Virginia.

Woolnough learned of his release after the conclusion of Colonial Downs’ harness meet that ended Nov. 5. Colonial Downs also let go several media-related personnel including its simulcast signal personality “Derby” Bill Watson, and Kyle Fitzgerald, who handled media relations.

Also on Nov. 10, the Virginia racetrack closed the first off-track betting parlor opened in the state along Military Highway in Chesapeake. Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart said the facility, first opened in February 1996, was closed “to eliminate a duplication of facilities.”

The OTB, which generated $352,402,266 in handle in its history through the end of October, was under a lease that would have expired within 18 months. Colonial Downs leases and operates the Indian River OTB parlor in Chesapeake located about 10 minutes away.

The Military Highway OTB employed about 10 full-time employees that were offered similar positions at Indian River and an OTB parlor in Hampton, Stewart said. The Military Highway location had generated about $10.6 million in handle through the end of September, $1.1 million less than during the same period in 2007.

“I don’t anticipate we will lose any of that handle,” Stewart said. “In the end, we will retain that handle in other locations and save costs. We considered moving the location for a long time. We’re not shrinking. We’re not looking to do this anywhere else, like in Richmond, for instance.  We continue to look for other opportunities.”

Colonial Downs operates two OTB parlors in Richmond on opposite sides of the James River. Under current Virginia statute, Colonial Downs, as Virginia’s sole pari-mutuel operator, is allowed to operate 10 OTB facilities.

The field for other opportunities could include a legislative initiative in the next session of Virginia’s General Assembly to allow as many as 20 OTB parlors that would not require local referendums. Under the proposal, OTB parlors would require approval from local governing bodies.

With the closing of the Military Highway location, Colonial Downs has eight OTB outlets in Virginia.