In short, when horses race in our state, the entire Commonwealth wins. The Virginia Horse Racing Coalition is here to make sure they keep racing at Colonial Downs for years to come.
Learn more about the history and future of horse racing in Virginia below.
Virginia should be known for horse racing. We have the climate, location, natural talent and know how to be a leader in the sport. And, after all, horse racing has been a part of our Commonwealth since almost the very beginning. The first horses arrived here in 1609, and they’ve been a part of the fabric of Virginia ever since. Just over 350 years after their arrival, a horse named Secretariat put our state on the map, racing to a Triple Crown. In fact, when ESPN put together their ranking of the “100 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century”, Secretariat came in at #35. The only four-legged entrant on the list.
However, despite all this history and all of our natural advantages, the Commonwealth is not currently a horse racing destination. Much of this is the result of the closing of Colonial Downs in 2014. With that closing, Virginia lost its only thoroughbred flat racing track. New Kent County, localities with off-track betting sites, and the Commonwealth as a whole lost hundreds of good paying jobs, millions in tax revenue, and untold millions in associated economic activity and impact. The negative impacts of that closing continue to this day. Thankfully, this year a bipartisan coalition of legislators and organizations stepped up to say “enough”, and to bring world-class horse racing back to Virginia.
The effort centered on acting upon a recommendation made in a report by the Virginia Horse Racing Industry Strategic Planning Committee in December of 2017. In that report, the Committee found that to bring the horse racing industry back to Virginia, Colonial Downs must be re-opened with a sustainable business model to fund purse money that can attract top horses to support quality racing. The key to that would be the introduction of historical horse racing.
The Committee wrote: “Indeed, to be clear, developing Historical Horse Racing (HHR) in Virginia is the top priority for generating significant new revenue….The committee put it simply and bluntly: if HHR is not developed in Virginia, it is doubtful that Virginia’s horse-racing industry will ever be competitive with Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Delaware; on the contrary, Virginia’s horse-racing industry, without HHR, will remain an also-ran.”
Virginia will not remain “an also-ran.” This past session of the General Assembly legislation to allow for historical horse racing was passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. The legislation passed the House of Delegates 79-21 and the State Senate 31-9, and was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.
Now, with this new law on the books, the effort to reopen Colonial Downs and bring horse racing back home to Virginia is underway. The track was purchased in April, and racing will begin again next year. The entire Commonwealth will benefit.
An analysis conducted by Chmura Economics and Analytics estimates the reopening of Colonial Downs, via the introduction of historical horse racing to the Commonwealth, will create over 1400 new jobs; have an annual economic impact of $349.1 million; and generate $41.6 million in annual state and local tax revenue.
The reopening of Colonial Downs is truly great news for Virginia. But this is just the beginning. And it is why the Virginia Horse Racing Coalition has been created. Joining together, businesses, organizations, associations and interested individuals are here to advocate for a Colonial Downs that is second to none, and that not only reopens, but thrives. A successful Colonial Downs will be a magnet for tourists who will then take in sights all across Virginia, visiting local businesses along the way. The tax revenue it generates will mean more money for schools, law enforcement and roads statewide. Localities with off-track betting locations will gain hundreds of good paying jobs and significant new tax revenue of their own.