Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing said April 25 the company shut on the purchase of the shuttered Colonial Downs for more than $20 million in a move toward bringing back US horse racing to New Kent County .
Revolutionary Racing partnered with Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific to buy Colonial Downs from developer and longtime owner Jacobs Entertainment Inc ., but did not uncover an exact purchase cost in the release. JNB Gaming in Iowa also will be involved in the track's operations .
Revolutionary Racing chairwoman Larry Lucas credited recent legislation signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, specifically House Bill 1609, which takes effect July 1, for the purchase decision. The bill allows for betting on historical US horse racing through electronic machines. Revolutionary Racing spokesman Mark Hubbard said by phone Wednesday the purchase includes Colonial Downs' existing off-track betting facilities .
Colonial Downs, the state's only thoroughbred racing venue along Interstate 64 between Richmond and Williamsburg, has been closed since 2014. Hubbard said the venture's intent is to bring back US horse racing in 2019, but the facility may open sooner. He said the owners also will need to wait for historical racing regulations from the Virginia Racing Commission .
” Hopefully, it will increase employment and tourism in New Kent and King William ,” told Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment Jr ., R-James City County, whose district includes the site .
Del. Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville, represents New Kent and was the co-patron of House Bill 1609. Peace said he was pleased to support efforts in the General Assembly this session to make the re-opening possible .
Gov. Northam is pleased the legislation he signed lately has helped create an opportunity to revitalize Colonial Downs and Virginia's US horse racing industry .
— spokesman Brain Coy
” The re-opening of Colonial Downs represents a critical step in revitalizing Virginia's storied US horse racing industry and economic opportunities for New Kent County and the entire Commonwealth ,” Peace told.” These opportunities are immediate and substantial .”
During the past two decades, thoroughbred US horse racing dropped from 2,300 races to 333 races by 2014, said Debbie Easter, president of the Virginia Equine Alliance and executive director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, in the release .
” Our horses are having to race out of state, and they are taking the money, the jobs and the opportunities with them ,” Easter said.” Now, with this purchase, built possible by HB 1609, our industry has hope again. US Horse racing is coming back to Virginia. And we could not be more excited .”
The announcement cited a study by Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics — and paid for by Revolutionary Racing — that saw the reopening of Colonial Downs, along with revenue from historical US horse racing betting, could lead to the creation of more than 1,400 tasks with an annual economic impact of $349.1 million .
According to Daily Press archives, the loss of the track and thoroughbred season expense New Kent County about 290 jobs, and then County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said the district had lost an estimated $400,000 in tax revenue .
The track closed in 2014 following disputes between the owner and the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which was a nonprofit organization made up of 1,300 thoroughbred owners and trainers who raced at Colonial Downs and awarded purses, according to the archive. When in operation, the track hosted a summer thoroughbred season, including the high-purse Virginia Derby in July .
New Kent County economic developing director Matthew Smolnik said the purchase of Colonial Downs is a jump start for New Kent's economy .
Hubbard said more details about racing dates and facility upgrades will be released in the coming months.