The Virginia Racing Commission has approved an application by Churchill Downs Inc. to offer account wagering in the state, and said statistics indicate existing account wagering operations haven’t impacted off-track betting in Virginia. In fact, account wagering and OTB handle are up so far this year.
The commission’s approval of twinspires.com makes the CDI-owned service the fifth licensed account wagering provider in Virginia. The others Colonial Phonebet, TVG, XpressBet, and AmericaTab. The approval of twinspires.com is subject to execution of an agreement that, once signed, would be approved administratively.
Brad Blackwell, a vice president with CDI, told the commission April 17 he expects twinspires.com to be up and running in Virginia before the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and that the company would seek customers in advance of licensure.
Youbet.com, which has an application pending with the racing commission, has been accepting wagers in Virginia even though the required agreement among Youbet.com, Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association hasn’t been reached.
Account wagering in Virginia so far this year is up 12.98% from the same period last year, not a surprise to regulators. But some officials expected cannibalism of handle at Colonial Downs’ off-track betting parlors. OTB handle, however, is up 8%, or $3 million higher than last year.
“For the first quarter of last year, (the Richmond OTB parlor) was being renovated,” Colonial Downs president Ian Stewart said. “However, factoring in that impact, it would still be a 5% increase, which is pretty good when you consider the growth of account wagering.”
Stewart credited the positive figures on improvements to self-service tote machines, marketing, and a “good team getting good results. There isn’t any reason why account wagering and off-track betting can’t be mutually supportive.”
Allowed to operate 10 OTB parlors under Virginia law, Colonial Downs operates a network of nine parlors that serve Richmond, Hampton, Chesapeake, Roanoke, Martinsville, Bristol, and Alberta. The required referendum has been approved in Westmoreland County, but Colonial Downs hasn’t vigorously pursued its opening in the Northern Neck community.
“We continue to look for opportunities for OTBs,” Stewart said. “We have to be selective. It’s a high investment on our part.”