Virginia Equine Alliance To Open Its First OTB Wednesday In Richmond

 The following article appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch November 1st and It is written by Carol Hazard. 

The Virginia Equine Alliance, a consortium of horse racing and breeding groups, will open an off-track betting center for horse racing Wednesday at a sports grill and bar in Henrico County — its first in the state.

The betting site — at Breakers Sports Grille, 9127 W. Broad St. in the TJ Maxx Plaza off Tuckernuck Drive between Gaskins and Parham roads — will mark the first time in two years that people in Virginia can go to a teller window and buy vouchers to bet on Thoroughbred racing.

Breakers Sports Grille offers plenty of parking, daily food & beverage specials, and a combination of sports & horse racing on over 50 TVs.
Breakers Sports Grille offers plenty of parking, daily food & beverage specials, and a combination of sports & horse racing on over 50 TVs.

“If all goes well, the first bets can be placed beginning at noon Wednesday,” said Darrell Wood, spokesman for the Virginia Equine Alliance.

The sports bar and grill is equipped with 50 to 60 televisions to watch live racing or other sports, Wood said.

The location can take in as many as a 20 satellite signals a day — a total of 10 at any one time — from racetracks across the country. Horse racing will be showcased in two sections inside Breakers Sports Grille, which will be open seven days a week from noon to 11 p.m.

A total of nine betting machines — two of which can be manned — have been installed at the location.

“We have been pushing to get it open by the Breeders’ Cup race this Friday and Saturday,” Wood said. “Aside from the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, this is the biggest betting event of the year for Thoroughbred racing.”

Unlike the three other major races, which are only for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, the Breeders’ Cup at the Santa Anita racetrack in California is 12 races in all for different age groups with $1 million or greater purses.

This Wednesday — the first day of the off-track betting center — races will be broadcast from 17 tracks in the United States and one in Canada.

The alliance plans to open a second betting site — to be called Ponies ‘n Pints — after the first of the year in the former Tiki Bob’s Cantina, at 110 N. 18th St. in Shockoe Bottom in downtown Richmond.

“OTBs are important to racing because they generate additional revenue for purses, racing expenses and breeders’ funds,” said Jeb Hannum, executive director of the Virginia Equine Alliance.

They expand the number of people who watch, enjoy and bet on racing, Hannum said.

For the past two years, Virginia residents could only bet on horse races online in the state through Xpressbet, TVG and TwinSpires wagering websites.

At one time, Virginia was home to 10 off-track betting sites. Most had been closed by the time the Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County — the former venue for racing — surrendered its unlimited license Nov. 1, 2014 to run horse racing in the state.

The surrender and simultaneous closing of Colonial Downs resulted from a dispute with Virginia horsemen over the racing schedule and stake levels.

Colonial Downs continued to operate a few off-track betting sites, but people could only wager online at those sites through the track’s EZHorseplay system. The track’s main site on West Broad Street closed in April 2015.

Off-track betting centers traditionally were in large buildings that catered only to racing fans and tended to lack atmosphere.

The alliance’s model combines horse racing with traditional sports, such as football and baseball, and hopefully will draw new fans to racing, Hannum said.