Colonial Downs Reports Gains As Meet Nears End

Fresh off of a successful weekend that included the $500,000 Virginia Derby, Colonial Downs officials updated the Virginia Racing Commission July 17 on the progress of its five-week summer meet.

In 2001, Colonial Downs enjoyed a warm reception when it moved its racing dates from the fall to the summer. Through 20 days of the New Kent County track's 26-day meet, average daily handle was 6.7% higher than the 2001 figure. Average on-track attendance was 17.5% higher, with live handle up 20% from 2001.

The meet ends July 23.

John Mooney, general manager of Colonial Downs and president of the Maryland-Virginia Racing Circuit, attributes the gains to full fields on the turf. "We hoped to run more on the dirt, but everyone comes to Virginia to run on the grass," he said.

In other business, the commission discussed its legislative agenda for the 2003 session of the General Assembly. Commission chairperson Robin Williams reported that three separate bills could be offered, a change from2002, when an omnibus bill was presented.

Regulation of account wagering would be discussed in a separate bill because it is a "more complex issue," Williams said. A means to utilize surpluses in the commission's operation budget could be introduced in a separate bill or as a budget amendment. The remaining legislation presented may address the number of racing days and the number of off-track wagering centers.

"The concepts are identical to what was proposed last year," commissioner Anne Paulson said. "The question is how to proceed."

This year, the single bill cleared a Senate committee, the Senate floor, and a House of Delegates committee by healthy margins only to fail on the House floor by one vote.