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.