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Horse racing industry worries about potential impact of casinos in Virginia

Posted at 3:25 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 20:38:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. - Horse racing just returned to Colonial Downs in New Kent County this summer, but with the potential for casinos in Virginia, industry insiders are worried about getting left in the dust.

The Colonial Downs Group doesn't want to be left behind, noting they've invested $300 million in Virginia and opened four facilities across the state. The General Assembly just legalized historical horse racing in 2018.

On Monday, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released its report about casino gambling. As state lawmakers continue to debate legalizing it, the report found casinos would have a modest economic impact, but would hurt the horse racing industry, potentially leading to a 45% hit.

"This study makes clear that any casino legislation that does not take this into consideration would undo what legislators approved just two years ago. It would lead to job losses and a loss of tax revenue for localities and the state. Essentially the General Assembly would go from encouraging a new job creating industry in 2018 to locate here, and make a massive financial investment in the process, to actively undermining that new industry just two short years later," the Colonial Downs Group said in a statement.

Related: City council approves resolution to use money from Norfolk casino to improve two local schools

Those concerns have led to questions about how the General Assembly will move forward.

"There's just a plethora of issues that are out there that I think many of us didn't think about," said Republican Senate Leader Tommy Norment.

The report said some losses to the horse racing industry could be offset by directing casino revenues.

"We hope that the General Assembly will keep these facts, and the jobs of over 1000 Virginians, in mind as they consider this issue in the months ahead. We are proud to be a vibrant corporate citizen of the Commonwealth and we hope to remain so going forward," Colonial Downs said in a statement.

Lawmakers will take up legislation this winter when they return to Richmond.