The following appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch and www.richmond.com January 10th. It was written by Carol Hazard
The Virginia Equine Alliance will open its second off-track betting center for horse racing inside Ponies & Pints, a new restaurant/bar, on Wednesday in downtown Richmond.
The betting center and restaurant — located in the former Tiki Bob’s Cantina at 110 N. 18th St. in Shockoe Bottom — will make their debut at the same time.
The alliance, a consortium of horse-racing and -breeding groups, opened its first off-track betting center Nov. 2 inside Breakers Sports Grille at 9127 W. Broad St. in Henrico County.
“That site has been doing great business since the day it opened, so things are getting exciting at last,” said Darrell Wood, spokesman for the alliance.
Thoroughbred and harness racing in Virginia are moving in a new direction, but the going has been slow since Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County surrendered its unlimited license to run racing in the state on Nov. 1, 2014.
Wood said the alliance hopes to have four or five off-track betting centers open in Virginia in the near future.
It is searching for restaurants/bar partners in the Chesapeake and Hampton areas and hopes to open sites in those locations by year’s end.
“As far as the Richmond market goes, I think we’ll be happy with two sites,” Wood said. “Breakers has been doing strong business since the day it opened, and we anticipate Ponies & Pints will mimic that success.”
At one time, Virginia was home to 10 off-track betting sites. Most were closed by the time Colonial Downs was shuttered because of a dispute with Virginia horsemen over racing schedules and stakes levels.
The track’s main betting site on West Broad Street in Richmond closed in April 2015.
Betting at Ponies & Pints will be available every day from noon to 11 p.m. The location can take simulcast signals from as many as 20 tracks across the country on a daily basis. At a track with live racing, about 10 races are run over a four-hour period, on average.
The big races — such as the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.; the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore; and the Belmont Stakes outside New York City, which make up the Triple Crown — will be picked up via simulcast in the Richmond-area betting facilities along with hundreds of smaller races across the country.
“Tracks start at different times and are in different time zones, so as a result, there is always a wagering product available whether it’s at noon … 3 p.m. or when folks get off work at 6 p.m.,” Wood said.
Ponies & Pints plans a soft opening, with a grand opening Saturday, Jan. 28, to coincide with the simulcast of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
“The Pegasus will be held for the first time ever and is the richest Thoroughbred horse race in the world,” Wood said.
Simulcast betting opportunities will be the same at Ponies & Pints as it is at Breakers.
“We start getting a crowd at 12 and we stay going until 11 p.m.,” said Chris Heppert, owner of Breakers. Business is better since simulcast horse racing was added. “It was definitely a good move.”
Bettors can wager at two windows, using cash or vouchers, or at eight self-betting terminals, also with cash or vouchers.
Many players buy vouchers when they first come into a betting center and play off those so they do not need to put cash in a machine on every transaction.
Adding another site will be good for both businesses in the Richmond area, Heppert said.
“There’s demand for it,” said Erik Brockdorff, co-owner of Ponies & Pints and former owner of Tiki Bob’s. “We’ve gotten lots of requests to see when we will open.”
Ponies & Pints will have 35 flat-screen televisions that will show a combination of horse races and sports. One area designated for horse racing can receive signals from as many as 10 tracks at one time.
The restaurant will open with more than 60 beers on tap, featuring local craft beers, and a menu featuring burgers, open-face sandwiches and entrees from $10 to $15.
It’s a non-smoking facility but has a fenced-in patio where smokers can go.