With reporting from Nick Hahn
For the second time in recent days, the Virginia Racing Commission has canceled its scheduled meeting, leaving the state’s dispute over 2014 racing dates in limbo.
The Commission meeting, slated for Friday morning, will not take place. However, according to a message obtained by The Racing Biz, Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones will convene a smaller meeting at his office tomorrow morning. That gathering will include representatives from the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Colonial Downs, and the Virginia Racing Commission. The Racing Commission is an agency of the Department of Commerce.
The first two of those groups — the state’s horsemen and Colonial Downs — have been locked in an increasingly bitter and thus far unresolved struggle over the length — in live racing days and weeks — of the 2014 Thoroughbred meeting (here).
In perhaps the oddest plot twist in what has already been a long, strange battle, multiple sources with detailed knowledge told The Racing Biz that Secretary Jones’s intervention was prompted by the possibility that Colonial Downs would announce its intention to relinquish within 45 days its so-called “unlimited” license at tomorrow’s Racing Commission meeting. Calls to the Commission and to Colonial Downs were not immediately returned.
That unlimited license allows Colonial Downs to operate a race meet, with pari-mutuel wagering, of longer than 14 days and to maintain a network of off-track wagering facilities. Colonial has the state’s sole unlimited license. It currently operates eight off-track wagering facilities, though 10 are permitted under state law; because the ongoing dispute prohibits Colonial’s facilities from accepting wagers on Thoroughbred races, four of the OTBs are currently shuttered.
Colonial Downs typically has run between 30 and 45 days of live racing each year. In 2013, the track conducted 25 days of live racing over a five-week period, a meet that the horsemen viewed as a one-time concession but which Colonial saw as the beginning of a needed change. In addition to the length of the meet, the sides have been unable to agree on whether, and to what extent, Colonial should be held harmless for losses it has incurred as a result of the shutdown in Thoroughbred wagering.