TVG, XpressBet Approved in Virginia

Satellite television customers in Virginia who have watched horse racing on dedicated channels for several years can now wager on the races.

The Virginia Racing Commission April 27 approved two new applications and renewed another for advance deposit wagering. TV Games Network and XpressBet received their first licenses, while CDPhonebet, a Colonial Downs product managed by The Racing Channel, was re-approved.

TVG plans to accept new accounts immediately. XpressBet's approval is subject to an administrative revision expected to be finalized within a week. The approval is timely because it came 10 days prior to the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

Last year, Colonial Downs introduced account wagering on an indefinite, limited basis through CD Phonebet. The April 27 approval allows CD Phonebet to accept wagers on more tracks, such as those operated by the New York Racing Association.

"That's the plan--to have the account wagering and the satellite wagering facilities work together to create the most revenue to create purse money," racing commission chair Anne Poulson said. "I think it was a very good day for Virginia. It gives us three account wagering providers that have experience."

Account wagering was unregulated in Virginia until 2003, when legislation was approved by the General Assembly. The amount of purse money generated by account wagering is difficult to project. CD Phonebet has processed more than $3 million in wagers since July 2004.

The commission also approved a new license to operate a second off-track wagering facility in Chesapeake. Colonial Downs opened its first OTB parlor in Chesapeake in 1996.

The new Chesapeake facility will be the eighth facility in Virginia. Currently, Colonial Downs operates six OTB facilities in Virginia and plans to open its seventh facility in Henry County (Martinsville) later this year. Plans are moving forward in Scott County, near Bristol, and Westmoreland County, where voters approved off-track betting in a referendum last November.

The new 10,000-square-foot facility in Chesapeake can be expanded to add an additional 7,000 square feet and is located in the Indian River Shopping Center, which is more convenient for patrons in the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. After adjusting the impact on existing wagering facilities in Hampton and Chesapeake, the $20 million in handle the new facility is projected to generate each year will create $1 million in additional purse money for live racing, 30 new jobs, more than $122,000 in local tax revenue, and more than $405,000 in other state and local tax revenue.