Virginia Governor Ralph Northam spoke favorably about the idea to bring casino-style gambling to the state as this would give local economy a boost. The Governor is confident the state should be more open-minded about the introduction of casino gambling since in his words a substantial amount of money is going across Virginia’s borders in states like Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia where casino gambling is legal and regulated.
Governor Northam must act on a bill allowing for the reopening of the Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County until April 9. One of the key provisions of this piece of legislation has to do with the introduction of wagering on historical races via slot-like machines that would enable racetrack visitors to bet on horse races that have already been run.
Supporters of the bill in the Senate are confident its passing would strengthen Virginia’s stagnant horse racing industry and would bring in more money to the state’s coffers. The new legislation is labelled House Bill 1609 and was introduced by Delegate Michael J. Webert. It passed the House of Delegates and cleared the Senate in February, so now it is up to Governor Northam to decide whether to sign it.
Historical Racing is Crucial for Colonial Downs’ Sale
The new bill’s goal is to introduce historical racing machines to the now-closed Colonial Downs racetrack which ceased operation back in 2014. The machines could potentially make it to the floors of off-track betting venues throughout Virginia but at a later stage.
These betting machines are believed to be an important factor when it comes to the sale of the closed-down racetrack in New Kent County. One of the potential buyers is a company called Revolutionary Racing that is based in Chicago. Revolutionary Racing is confident the said machines could generate roughly $161.9 million on an annual basis that would not only revitalize the equine industry in the state but will help Virginia fill its tax coffers.
The bill includes a provision which calls for a 1.25% tax rate on the machines’ revenue, with the state collecting 0.75% while the remainder of 0.5% is supposed to go to New Kent. The percentage of the revenue generated by the machines in off-track facilities is to be divided between New Kent and the cities in which the satellite betting parlors with the machines are located.
The Colonial Downs racetrack is situated between the cities of Richmond and Williamsburg but had to shut down in 2014 after its owner Jeff Jacobs of Jacob’s Entertainment decided to surrender its unlimited racing license following a dispute with the Virginia Racing Commission. This resulted in the creation of the so-called Virginia Equine Alliance, an organization whose members are confident the introduction of historical races wagering is crucial for the success of the horse-racing industry in the state.
These machines essentially rely on a video archive containing information about horse races that have already passed but without revealing identifying details about the participating horses. However, punters can see the odds. According to the Virginia Racing Commission, one such machine can generate about $150 each day.
Critics Argue Historical Racing May Be Damaging to the Local Community
Not everyone is supportive of the introduction of historical racing as a catalyst for the growth of the local horse racing industry, however. Those who oppose the idea believe the historical racing machines are nothing but slot machines in disguise. The president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, Victoria Cobb, believes signing the new bill into law would result in a “massive gambling expansion” in Virginia which may have a negative impact on the local community.
Cobb recommended Governor Northam should consider passing the bill into law very carefully and warned the potential boost to the state’s coffer could come at the expense of increasing gambling addiction rates which would have a negative impact on the local economy.
While Governor Northam has not reached a decision at this point, he commented that it would be better for the state to introduce legislation allowing for the regulation of casino-style gambling instead of having the locals travel over to other states for this purpose. Representatives of Revolutionary Racing have expressed their confidence about the Governor backing the introduction of historical race wagering in Virginia. Governor Northam said he plans on reviewing the proposal and possibly suggesting few changes before he reaches a final decision on April 9.