Pari-Mutuel Legislation Approved by Virginia Senate

Legislation that would remove impediments to horse racing in Virginia passed the state Senate Jan. 29. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kenneth Stolle, was approved by a 27-12 vote. It now goes to General Laws Subcommittee in the House of Delegates.

"I think it's positive than the vote passed by a wide margin," Virginia Thoroughbred Association president Debbie Easter said. "We hope that the momentum will carry forward to the house. The package will help move the racing and breeding industry forward in Virginia. I think it's good."

The bill delegates certain regulatory authority in regard to provisional licensing, satellite wagering facilities, account wagering, and number of racing days to the Virginia Racing Commission. It also adds towns to the localities that may hold referenda on satellite wagering facilities. Pari-mutuel racing is the Virginia's most regulated gaming industry.

Supporters of the bill agree that along with the success of last summer's Thoroughbred meet, the industry's consensus on Virginia racing issues is beginning to pay off.

"It's got full industry support," said Steve Ralls, executive director of the VTA. "It's not often your get the entire industry behind something like this."

In 2001, Virginia collected more than $2.1 million from pari-mutuel racing. It is estimated that rural New Kent County (population 13,600), where Colonial Downs is located, receives more than $1 million in combined taxes from racing.

In other news, Ralls was wrapping up the open bidding session of the VTA stallion-season auction Jan. 30.

"We've had fewer bidders that last year, but the bids were better because the stallion seasons were better," Ralls said.

The closed bidding session comprised of the three highest bidders of seasons in the open session continues Jan. 31.