Virginia Race and Sports Wagering
In 1989, the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) was created to oversee the horse racing industry in the Commonwealth, including all pari-mutuel wagering and the administration of rules and regulations to control conditions under which racing and wagering were conducted. A special fund known as the State Racing Operations Fund was also created, which receives its monies from the VRC. VRC revenues are generated from a portion of the wagering pools ranging from 0.75% to 2.25%, as directed by legislation. The percentage distribution varies based on factors such as the type of wager, where the race took place (inside or outside Virginia), and whether the wager was made at the racetrack or at a satellite facility.
The legislature created the Virginia Horse Industry Board (VHIB) in 1994 to be responsible for the promotion and economic development of the Virginia horse industry through a variety of initiatives in education, marketing and research. The VHIB has supported research in equine health areas such as lameness and respiratory diseases and has awarded more than $2 million in grants to promote the horse industry in the state.
The only horse racetrack in Virginia with pari-mutuel wagering, Colonial Downs, closed in October 2014. The track opened in September 1997 and had live racing and a year-round OTB. The majority of pari-mutuel handle in Virginia is generated by OTB facilities. Pari-mutuel handle subsidizes the purses distributed for live racing and the awards for owners and breeders.
Since 2003, the VCR has been licensing and regulating ADW companies that operate in Virginia.
Virginia is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region that rewards breeders and owners of Virginia thoroughbreds for wins at U.S. racetracks. The Virginia Breeders Fund is regulated by the VCR with assistance from the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the Virginia Harness Horse Association. Virginia thoroughbred horses must be registered with the Virginia Breeders Fund to be eligible for any Breeder, Owner or Stallion Owner Awards. The fund is endowed by a 1% deduction of all live and simulcast pari-mutuel wagering conducted in the Commonwealth. In July 2009, legislation passed that added the 1% deduction on ADW wagers as well. The Virginia Breeders Fund awards more than $1 million each year.
In February 2007, efforts to allow instant racing terminals, which would permit wagering on previously run horse races, failed when the House voted down the Senate amendments to the legislation.
In February 2008, another attempt at legalizing instant racing was amended and passed in the Senate, but ended up stalling in the House Finance Committee.
On 1 July 2009, legislation passed mandating a 10% source market fee imposed on out-of-state ADW providers. The VCR had to manage the backlash from the five ADW providers who objected to the fee. By mid-2010, the providers had all complied with the provision.
On 1 December 2009, a Virginia law banning smoking in public areas caused the racetrack and some of the OTB facilities to become nonsmoking. Four of the OTB facilities were renovated with separate HVAC units, seating and entrances to allow for legal smoking sections.
On 1 January 2010, new rates went into effect for the first increase in license fees by the VRC.
In 2010, the proposed bill that would allow for instant racing terminals at racetracks was dropped.
In April 2018, House Bill 1609 was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam. This bill allowed the Virginia Racing Commission to approve historical horse racing gaming machines at Colonial Downs as well as up to 10 off-track betting facilities, beginning in July.
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