Colonial Downs Appeals Virginia Racing Commission’s June 23rd Order

The battle between the VHBPA and Colonial Downs over race dates is likely to go to court rather than be resolved through direct negotiation.

Last Monday, June 23, the Virginia Racing Commission conditioned rescinding its December 2013 order, which directed Colonial Downs to run a 2014 race meet of 5 weeks/25 days, if Colonial Downs executed a contract with the VHBPA providing for an 8 week/24 day-race meet in 2015. Following the VRC meeting, VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo sent Colonial Downs a draft contract for 8 weeks/24 days in 2015, as directed by the Commission. In response, Colonial Downs sent a letter to the VHBPA from Ian Stewart rejecting that contract and appealed the VRC’s order to the Circuit Court in Richmond.

According to Stewart’s letter, a contract acceptable to Colonial Downs must include reimbursement of costs “in excess of five weeks of live racing,” a multi-year structure (2015-2017), permanent assurance that that the thoroughbred signal “will not be interfered with in either the SWFs or on EZ Horseplay,” and a 50/50 split of purse funds from all sources (account wagering, SFWs, live racing, export simulcasting and Breeders’ Fund) between “high-end and every day racing.”

The VRC has issued a stay of its June 23 order pending judicial review.

Petramalo told the VTA that he expects that Colonial will argue in court that the VRC does not have the authority to issue an order “dictating the terms of a contract for racing in 2015.”

“I do not think Colonial Downs is correct as a matter of law,” Petramalo said in an email to the VTA. “In any event, it will probably be the end of the year before the court hears the case and renders a decision.”

In the meantime, Petramalo believes that the VRC’s mandate that Colonial run a 5 week/25 day-race meet in 2014 still stands. Petramalo believes that Colonial’s court appeal and rejection of the 2015 8 week/24 days contract indicates that the track has turned down the compromise offered by the VRC and should therefore be subject to immediate legal proceedings by that organization to enforce its order for racing in 2014.

On Tuesday, July 1, in a response to Stewart’s letter, the VHPBA offered to discuss a three-year contract with Colonial, going through 2017, which would include 8 weeks/25 days in 2015. Before doing so, however, Petramalo asked the racetrack to address the VRC’s December order to run 5 weeks/25 days in 2014 because the horsemen believe that Colonial’s appeal of the VRC’s June 23rd order has no impact on the directives of the order.

“The VHPBA is ready and willing to help Colonial Downs carry out a 5 week/25 day meet this year even with the absence of a traditional horsemen’s contract,” Petramalo said.

You can read the Richmond Times Dispatch coverage here.