Colonial Downs will move forward with its plans to open an off-track betting facility in Richmond under regulations approved Tuesday by the Virginia Racing Commission.
The regulations are set for an 18-month period with the option of extending them for another six months, according to commission chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr.
The regulations set a cap of 3,000 historical horse racing wagering machines in the commonwealth and has a population indicator for the number of machines allowed per locality or city, such as 700 terminals in a jurisdiction with a population 120,000 or greater, such as Richmond.
A crowd of 75 people attended the meeting to hear the fate of the new asset for Virginia’s horse racing industry, including officials from the horse industry officials and Colonial Downs.
The commissioners commented on the proposed regulations after returning from a closed session where they discussed the regulations.
Van Clief said the board was given 180 days to develop and approve regulations after Gov. Ralph Northam signed HB 1609 in April, which made historical horse racing legal. Historical horse racing uses machines that allow players to gamble on previously contested races with payouts from money pools generated by the players.
“Our 180 days would be up on Oct. 9,” Van Clief said. “We are also given an executive directive by the governor to place reasonable regulations and consider the local communities.”
Van Clief said they have exhausted the regulation process and have considered all of the public input.
Commissioner I. Clinton Miller said he agrees with the public’s overwhelming opinion that the 3,000 machine gap and population indicator won’t allow the industry to grow.
“I’ve been warned that 3,000 may be a limit, and I believe that,” Miller said. “I also believe that population requirement does not make economic sense.”
Miller said that if they hadn’t passed the regulations by the 180-day deadline it would have destroyed the entire legislation that was passed.
“Although I don’t completely agree with the regulations before us, I do not want to destroy all of these efforts and that’s why I’m supporting this,” Miller said.
Miller also said he thinks the 3,000 machine cap is a good starting number and that the board will begin looking at permanent regulations soon.
Commissioner J. Sargeant Reynolds Jr. agreed with Miller that it’s not exactly what he’d like to see, but it’s a great start.
The board unanimously (3-0) approved the regulations; Commissioner Stuart C. Siegel was absent.
Colonial Downs spokesman Mark Hubbard said the regulations allow the Midlothian Turnpike proposal and four potential proposals to move forward.
Richmond City Council approved a resolution in support for the maximum of 700 machines for the Midlothian Turnpike proposal last week.
Hubbard said the company must spread out the 3,000 machine gap between Rosie’s at Colonial Downs, the Midlothian Turnpike facility and four other planned facilities in Hampton, Vinton and Chesapeake.
The company plans to move forward by turning a former Kmart at 6807 Midlothian Turnpike into a wagering facility. It is expected to create 200 jobs and bring in $2 million in city tax revenue and $20 million in state tax revenue when fully operational sometime in 2019, according to Hubbard.
Colonial Downs bought the facility for $6 million; it will cost an additional $41 million to upgrade and renovate, according to Hubbard.
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