OTB Expansion, Account Wagering Set in Virginia

Racing fans in Virginia probably will have more outlets at which to place wagers in the coming months. New off-track betting parlors and account wagering are expected to increase handle in Virginia, and ultimately lead to more racing days at Colonial Downs.

The Virginia Racing Commission, which met June 24, set a special meeting date of July 1 to tour Colonial Downs' proposed OTB parlor in Richmond, south of the James River. Colonial Downs currently operates an OTB parlor north of the river. Another OTB parlor is proposed for Chesapeake, where Colonial Downs already operates a betting facility.

The commission is ready to introduce regulations for account wagering. Commissioner Anne Poulson and Stan Bowker, executive director of the commission, presented draft regulations to the commission.

Under the draft regulations, all of Virginia is identified as the source-market area because Colonial Downs is the only licensed racetrack in the state. Account wagering companies would be required to be licensed after they disclose the same information as racetrack licensees and have a business plan approved by the commission.

In addition, account-wagering companies would be required to have an approved contract with Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The placing of wagers through companies not regulated by the commission would be subject to criminal penalties.

"Account wagering has been and is being conducted in the commonwealth in an unregulated environment," said Poulson, who chairs the commission's rules committee. Poulson said the regulations protect the integrity of racing in the state and allow flexibility to account for changes in the industry.

On track, racing officials are pleased with Colonial Downs' live meet thus far, especially in regard to on-track attendance. After the first 10 days of the meet, attendance on live racing is up 10.5% over the same period last year. Handle is up a little more than 3% from the same period.

"The meeting in my opinion is going very well," said John Mooney, who oversees the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit. "I think that our five o' clock post time will result in a very significant increase in attendance."

Mooney attributes some of the interest in this year's meet to the positive publicity the industry has received with this year's Triple Crown and the upcoming Seabiscuit movie. As of May, wagering at Colonial Downs' off-track betting parlors is up 5.7%.