Magna Gets Approval to Operate Colonial Downs

The Virginia Racing Commission approved Wednesday an application that allows Maryland Racing Inc. to acquire a majority interest of the Colonial Downs operator's license. Maryland Racing is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp. With the approval, Magna Entertainment's purchase of Laurel Park and Pimlico can be finalized.

Jim McAlpine, president and chief executive officer of Magna Entertainment, considered the operator's license for racing at Colonial Downs "a hidden jewel" in the transaction. With the acquisition, McAlpine said the Magna Entertainment would seek to expand the off-track betting network in Maryland and with Colonial's cooperation in Virginia.

"To be successful in the future, it's important to be part of a network," McAlpine told the commission.

The Maryland Jockey Club retains a minority interest of the operator's license.

Also during Wednesday's meeting, the commission awarded Colonial Downs 30 days of live racing in 2003. Colonial's summer Thoroughbred racing schedule will run from June 13 to July 22. The request was approved on a 3-1 vote with Robin Williams, chairman of the commission, voting against the request. Williams stated in October that she could not support the request unless it contained 31 or 32 days of racing.

It was also announced that Colonial and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association had come to terms on a five-year agreement. However, the contract is subject to commission approval and has not been finalized.