11/17/2015 3:42PM

Virginia commission rejects Colonial Downs license application


The Virginia Racing Commission on Tuesday rejected an application by Colonial Downs in New Kent for a four-day race meet next year, opening the door for a horsemen’s group to play a larger role in racing in the state, according to the commission’s executive director.

The commission voted down the Colonial proposal because of the track’s “history of surrendering previously issued licenses” for live racing, off-track betting, and account wagering, according to Bernie Hettel, the executive director of the racing commission. Colonial has not held a live race meet since 2013, and last year it surrendered its racing license after the track and horsemen could not agree on dates for live racing.

Without a racing license, Colonial is unable to operate off-track betting parlors in the state. The track had also applied to open two parlors that have been closed for more than year, but those applications became moot when the commission rejected the live racing proposal, Hettel said.

As a result of the rejection, a consortium of horsemen’s groups organized last year under the name the Virginia Equine Alliance will be able to open its own off-track betting parlors in the state.

Current law provides for up to 10 OTBs around Virginia.

Though the state’s OTB parlors have been shut for the more than a year, several national account-wagering companies operate in Virginia. Colonial shuttered its own account-wagering operation earlier this year.

Jeb Hannum, the executive director of the Virginia Equine Alliance, said on Tuesday after the meeting that the alliance intends to begin planning on how to fund and operate an OTB network “immediately.” While he said that the alliance could use money derived from account-wagering betting to fund the opening of individual OTBs on its own, he also said the alliance will explore a partnership with an outside company, with the alliance retaining the OTB license but contracting out the OTB operations.

“That’s the more likely path that we will go down,” Hannum said.

The alliance has organized six one-day race meets this year at several locations in the state. The organization comprises the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Gold Cup, and the Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association.