Top stories 2018: Colonial Downs jump started state horse-racing industry

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

This year, Colonial Downs paved the way for Virginia’s horse racing industry to take off running in 2019.

The track was bought by former racing group Revolutionary Racing, historical horse race wagering was legalized, facility renovations have begun, ground was broken on two off track betting sites and the new owners got their operating license.

The revitalization began when Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, proposed a bill would allow slot-like machines to be used to bet on historical horse races — previously contested races that generate winning numbers on the machine.

The bill passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in April. Revolutionary Racing bought Colonial Downs in the same month with the goal of bringing back live thoroughbred horse racing in 2019.

The group will split the 3,000 historical horse racing machines the state will allow among the Rosie’s gaming emporium at Colonial Downs, an off-track betting parlor under construction in Richmond, an off-track betting parlor that recently broke ground on Dec. 17 in Vinton and two other planned facilities in Hampton and Chesapeake, according to Colonial Downs spokesperson Mark Hubbard.

Colonial Downs recently announced live horse racing will return to the commonwealth on Aug. 5 at the facility.

The group was granted its operating license from the Virginia Racing Commission Dec. 13. The Rosie’s gaming emporium with off-track betting at Colonial Downs plans to open mid-April.

Colonial Downs is expected to generate $25 million annually in state tax revenue, $17 million in annual local tax revenue and $25 million in revenue for Virginia’s horse industry, according to Hubbard.

“We are excited to bring 800 new jobs and a $300 million in investment to the Commonwealth in 2019 as racing returns to Colonial Downs in early August, and we will start opening our five planned Rosie’s gaming emporiums in April,” he said.

The Rosie’s in Vinton will also open in April and the Rosie’s in Richmond in June. The group is in negotiations for a Rosie’s in Hampton with a hope to open this summer and Rosie’s in Chesapeake with a hope to open by the end of 2019, according to Hubbard.

Review archives were used in this story.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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