Recap of October 14th Virginia Racing Commission Meeting – 2 Hearings Scheduled for November

The Virginia Racing Commission scheduled future hearings on two key subject matters this morning at the regulatory body’s monthly meeting at the Patrick Henry Building in downtown Richmond.

The first issue centers on Twin Spires, one of three ADW (Advance Deposit Wagering) companies permitted to take wagers in Virginia (along with TVG and XPressBet). Twin Spires has not paid the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) commissions due for the past three months. According to VRC Executive Secretary Bernie Hettel, “Twin Spires didn’t find the VEA to be a legitimate organization and thus has not paid. They will either pay up or face consequences”. A hearing date has been scheduled for November 17 as part of the next VRC meeting.

Jeb Hannum, Executive Director of the VEA, noted the three month total due from Twin Spires now stands at $264,597 — approximately $80,000 from July, $105,000 from August and $78,000 from September.

The second issue involves Colonial Downs and a pending lone race date request of November 30th that they had previously submitted. The request has not been withdrawn, nor has any action been taken on the request. As a result, the VEA has no ability to move forward in opening Off Track Betting Centers and creating an additional means of generating purse money. A hearing on this issue also has been scheduled for November 17 as part of the VRC meeting.

Wednesday’s VRC meeting marked the one year anniversary of the meeting at which Colonial’s owner, Jeff Jacobs, turned in the track’s racing license. Discussion took place on the recent history of negotiations between Colonial Downs, the VaHBPA and VEA in hopes of working out a lease/rental deal of the New Kent facility. As recently as October 1st, the VEA submitted a rent proposal to Colonial Downs, which followed a lease proposal that was sent and discussed on September 25th. Both included live racing opportunities and the re-opening an OTB in Richmond and Hampton. Neither option was accepted nor was a future counterproposal welcome.

“I’m willing to accept the parties are not coming to an agreement,” said Commission Van Clief, who has been active in trying to help both sides carve out a deal since 2013.  Jeb Hannum and VaHBPA’s David Ross both noted the importance of allowing the VEA to open up OTB’s. “We’re poised to move forward in that direction when that opportunity is available to us,” said Hannum.

Dr. Griffin, Director of Racing at the Gold Cup, gave a report on the inaugural Virginia Downs thoroughbred race day, which was held September 20th at Great Meadow. He was quite pleased with the number of entries (112) for six races, the horses that ran (52), the crowd (3,800) and money raised by non-profit partner, the Fauquier SPCA ($20,000). He also noted Foxfield ran a week after the Virginia Downs event and the International Gold Cup is 10 days away. “We’re being choked though at this point,” said Griffin. “We need more racing opportunities and a way to generate more purse money for horsemen to compete for”.

VEA President Debbie Easter gave a report on the Virginia-bred races and graded stakes that were held at Laurel in September. The 8 races generated a combined all sources handle of $2.1 million. She noted that this year’s Virginia-bred Day handle was double that of last year’s and Laurel was very happy with the back-to-back events. “Between those races, the six Virginia Downs events and three more flat races being held next weekend in conjunction with the traditional Gold Cup steeplechase races, I think we’ve reached most every class of Virginia-bred to create a racing opportunity for them this year,” said Easter.” Moving forward, we just need to create more opportunities.”