02/03/2014 12:44PM

Colonial Downs OTBs close over dates dispute with horsemen


Colonial Downs in Virginia has closed four of its eight offtrack betting facilities and shut off wagering on Thoroughbred races at the remaining parlors as a result of a dispute with horsemen over racing dates at the track this year, officials said.

The OTBs will remain closed and no Thoroughbred wagering will be offered at the other OTBs until a resolution is reached over the dates because of a provision in Virginia law, according to Frank Petramalo Jr., executive director of the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Negotiations over the dates have stalled, Petramalo said.

“We’re at a stalemate and nothing’s going to happen to break it for at least a couple of weeks,” said Petramalo, speaking from Japan, where he is on vacation.

Earlier this year, Colonial Downs asked the Virginia Racing Commission for approval for 12 racing dates over four weeks, but horsemen had asked the commission to approve 32 dates over eight weeks. The commission ended up approving 25 dates, the same number as 2013, but the track and horsemen have failed to come to terms on that proposal.

The current contract between the parties expired Jan. 29, and without a contract, Virginia law prevents the track from taking Thoroughbred bets at its OTBs. Colonial Downs closed the four OTBs on Jan. 31, according to the track.

“Every effort has been made to work with the [Virginia HBPA], and I am very disappointed that we have reached this point,” Ian Stewart, president of Colonial, said in a statement. “I hope this interruption of normal business will be brief and that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached.”

Colonial Downs has typically run a short meet in the summer when tracks in Maryland are not running live, forming a circuit for Maryland-based horsemen.

Bettors who have accounts with one of the four licensed account-wagering companies in Virginia can still bet on Thoroughbred races, according to Petramalo and the track.

The four OTBS that were closed are in Alberta, Vinton, Martinsville, and Scott County.

Christopher Crocker More than 1 year ago
Looks like Colonial Downs will no longer be able to offer their circus style meet complete with ostrich racing, camel racing, mascot racing, man against horse racing and fireworks. Oh, did I forget horse racing? Colonial Downs certainly did as the horses are the last thing they want at their overbuilt facility. CD wants to host only 6 days of racing in 2014. If they wanted that in the first place, then all they needed was a half mile track, a few bleachers and a hot dog stand. Colonial Downs president, Ian Stewart is not being one hundred percent honest about their agenda. Live horse racing cost money and if Colonial Downs was to have it their way, there would be no live racing at all in Virginia. Off-track wagering is where the big profits are and in order for them to conduct business, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires live racing. The Virginia Racing Commission is in charge of making sure the horseman (VHBPA) and the racetrack come to an agreement on these days. Colonial Downs opened in 1997 with the intentions of eventually getting a 50+ day race meet. Instead, it peaked at about 35 days and has been reduced down to 28 days, as of 2013. This year the race track has proposed a 6 day meet in attempt to drastically cut the fat. Live horse racing, the fat, is of no interest to Colonial Downs as it cuts into their off track wagering profits. Understandably they run a business and the goal of any business is to make profits. The problem is that they need horses and horsemen to put on their show. Without horses, there would be no racing and without racing, no wagering on thoroughbred horses in the Commonwealth of Virginia and no Colonial Downs. Virginia horsemen, who make Colonial Downs possible, are not going to be run out of their own town by agreeing to such a pathetic proposal. With 2 days of stakes races, and maybe a weather cancellation, the reality is that local trainers and owners will not even get a chance to race their Virginia bred horses. The TRUTH is Colonial Downs Race Track offered the horsemen 12 DAYS of racing and then, when they did not accept, they offered 6 DAYS of racing. Years ago when Colonial Downs opened, we were told we would have well over 50 days by now. Since Colonial loses money when the doors are open for live racing, it's in their best interest to minimize live racing to what the commission allows. Colonial is required to have a certain amount of live racing days in order to keep off track wagering open. CD has been taking racing days every year in order to keep profits higher. Colonial Downs has never and probably will never be considered a world class track. It is currently irrelevant and obviously is unsustainable since live racing is not the priority of Colonial Downs. The turf course has been worse every year since it opened. It's very hard and lacks "grass" since money for maintaining the course has been cut back. Cut back on watering, fertilizing and reseeding. I know this because I have been on that turf course since the days they started racing on it. There are much better turf courses across North America. Colonial Downs current reputation: "Cheap Turf Track" where you can run your 5k claimers and that is why trainers show up to race.
Christopher Crocker More than 1 year ago
Please share this blog link to get the TRUTH OUT! http://crockerracing.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/colonial-downs-closing-horseman-get-a-raw-deal/
Christopher Crocker More than 1 year ago
Karl Smithson More than 1 year ago
The original license should have been awarded to Churchill Downs who compiled the best application. The track would have been located in Va. Beach 15 minutes from our resort area. Mr. Meeker, CEO of Churchill Downs, stated "Virginia your are going to regret it" after the final hearing. I guess 10 years was better than nothing
Christopher Crocker More than 1 year ago
Right on!
JoeyB More than 1 year ago
The problem is that the location of Colonial Downs is in the middle of nowhere. Racing fans from Richmond or Virginia Beach need to travel one hour or more to get to the track. I've been to Virginia Beach during the meet and wanted to go to the track on a Friday but the traffic was so bad that it would have taken me two hours to get to the track so I just turned around and went back to my hotel. What that track needs is slots so it can survive not a dispute between the horsemen and the track.
Christopher Crocker More than 1 year ago
So true!
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Lea Learn to spell. You might be more convincing of this scam. BTW: Get a real job and shut the f up
Mark D More than 1 year ago
What was Maryland Jockey Club thinking giving up the rights to those Summer dates???
Alexander Ivory More than 1 year ago
The state of Maryland couldnt support live racing that many days. Pre slots, a lot of horsemen and some farms moved out of Maryland for better purses. No serious gambler want to bet races with five and six horse fields.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Agreed....they couldn't support that may days pre slots....So give up December and January. This sport needs new fans. So after all the publicity and momentum is generate from Preakness and Triple Crown...they shut down for 3 months.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
They do every day Santa Anita or Golden Gate runs