Virginia Racing Commission approves temporary rules for historical horse racing

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When horse racing returns to Virginia next year, betting facilities will be limited on the number of wagering machines they can have for historical horse racing, and the total number of machines in the Commonwealth will be limited to 3,000. 

The Virginia Racing Commission approved final emergency regulations for historical horse racing in the Commonwealth at its meeting on Tuesday with a 3-0 vote. 

The rules limit the number of machines at a facility based on an area’s population.

An area, like Richmond, with 120,000 people or more, can have up to 700 betting terminals at a facility. Facilities will be allowed up to 300 terminals for a population between 60,000 and 120,000, and up to 150 terminals for a population of 60,000 or less. 

There has been concern that placing these limits on betting machines will hinder the racing industry’s growth and revenue. In August, the Virginia Equine Alliance proposed changes to the regulations, including expanding the total number of machines allowed in Virginia after two years. The VEA claimed 3,000 terminals would not “sustain and expand Virginia’s horse industry.”

The VEA also did not want to limit the number of machines at betting facilities based on population. It argued population does not necessarily determine how many people will visit a betting facility from out of town. 

The General Assembly made historical horse racing legal in Virginia when it passed HB1609 earlier in 2018. Historical horse racing allows people to bet on past horse racing using slot-like betting machines, without knowing which specific horse or race they are betting on. 

On Sept. 24, Richmond City Council unanimously approved plans for an off-track betting facility at the site of the former Kmart in Midlothian Turnpike. Colonial Downs will operate the facility and has released renderings of what it will look like.

In April, Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing bought the Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County with plans to bring live horse racing back to the Commonwealth next year. 

David Lermond, the Executive Director of the Virginia Racing Commission, said Wednesday these emergency regulations are temporary. Once the rules are reviewed and approved, they will go into effect on October 9. The approval process includes the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Planning and Budget, Cabinet Secretary and Governor Ralph Northam. The emergency regulations will have to be replaced within 18 months with permanent ones. 

The Virginia Equine Alliance is also responding to Tuesday’s vote. 

“The VEA appreciates the speed in which the Commission developed the emergency Regulations for HHR,” Jeb Hannum, Executive Director of the Virginia Equine Alliance, said in a statement. “Now that this process is complete, we look forward to the year ahead working with the Commission and the Colonial Downs Group to reopen the track.”

To read the full rules on historical horse racing in Virginia, click here

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