Virginia Appropriations Committee approves Colonial Downs legislation

In Virginia, proposed legislation that would allow the shuttered Colonial Downs horseracing facility to re-open offering historical race wagering machines has reportedly been approved by the Appropriations Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates.

According to a Friday report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, Colonial Downs is located some 30 miles east of Richmond but closed its doors in 2014 amid a financial dispute between owner Jacobs Entertainment Incorporated and groups representing thoroughbred horse breeders, trainers and owners. But, the Colorado firm is purportedly in the midst of negotiations to offload the New Kent County facility to Chicago-headquartered Revolutionary Racing and hopes to have completed the sale by the end of the year.

The newspaper reported that an economic analysis prepared by Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics following a commission from Revolutionary Racing suggested that historical race wagering machines could generate as much as 80% of the rejuvenated track’s revenues and bring in more than $41.7 million in local and state taxes by 2022. The examination moreover purportedly indicated that a ‘full capacity’ Colonial Downs would contribute approximately $349 million to the local economy every year and employ more than 1,400 people.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the historical race wagering machine legislation was proposed by Michael Webert, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and would allow the slot-like units to be operated at Colonial Downs and a handful of off-track betting parlors located across the state.

“This bill is Virginia’s opportunity to revitalize and restart an industry that is about as old as the Commonwealth itself, if not older,” Webert reportedly told the newspaper after the Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee approved his measure by a 21-1 vote. “The biggest winner will be Virginia.”

However, the proposed legislation, which is now due to be put to a full vote before the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates, is not universally popular with local horseracing enthusiast Tad Berman reportedly telling the newspaper that the measure is essentially a way to bypass a voter referendum and legalize ‘casino gambling’.

“The money that is going to be generated from these slot parlors is going to be from the locals,” Berman reportedly told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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