Colonial Downs Dealt OTB Setback

Colonial Downs' interest in opening an off-track betting parlor in a shopping mall was dealt a setback Tuesday night when the The Chesterfield County (Virginia) planning commission supported changing the county's current zoning laws to restrict where wagering facilities can be operated.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, following an emotional hearing attended by more than 100 people, the commission voted 5-0 to approve an amendment that, if adopted by the board of supervisors, would prohibit wagering facilities from opening on nearly 95% of the county's commercially-zoned land.

Colonial Downs had expressed interest in a possible OTB facility at the Cloverleaf Mall. According to the Times-Dispatch, current zoning laws allow for wagering facilities to open in more than 50% of the county's commercially zoned areas, including the mall. State law also requires an off-track betting parlor to receive approval of the voters in the county where it would be located, county officials said.

"Obviously, we are not in favor of the laws being changed," Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart, who did not attend the meeting, said. "But for us this is not a major issue. We have a referendum passed in the city of Richmond which would allow us to build an off-track betting facility literally right across the street from the mall."

Colonial has estimated an OTB parlor could bring about 500 people to the mall daily and generate more than $150,000 in tax revenue to the county each year.

Tony McMonagle, senior leasing agent for Cloverleaf, said the referendum procedure in place would preclude location of an OTB parlor where it is not wanted and that the zoning law change was not warranted.

Opponents who appeared at the hearing said they preferred to keep betting out of the county.

"An off-track betting parlor opens the door for other problems," said Jerome Hancock, pastor of Southside Church of the Nazarene. "I am opposed to people throwing money at a pipe dream."