Virginia Racing Commission signals willingness to scrub 2014 Colonial Downs season

The Virginia Racing Commission on Monday signaled its willingness to scrub the 2014 racing season at Colonial Downs if it can quickly get a contract in place ensure the 2015 seasons still happens.

Colonial Downs and the state's horsemen have been unable to reach agreement on the 2014 season since their contract expired at the end of January. Without an agreement, the track and the state's off-track betting parlors can't accept any wagers on thoroughbred racing until a deal is reached. The track estimates that it has already lost about $2 million this year due to the impasse, while the horsemen say their purse account is down about $1.1 million.

At issue is that Colonial Downs wants fewer races with higher purses, while the state's horsemen say they need more races to make owning, training and running horses worth their while. Colonial Downs says it has lost money on its live races for years and that it needs higher quality races to draw more wagering. The vast majority of Colonial Downs' revenue comes from its off track betting facilities, but state law requires that there be live racing in order to accept wagers at those facilities on other races around the country.

The commission adopted a resolution saying it would rescind its previous order calling for 25 days of racing over five weeks this year if the track and the state's horsemen come to an agreement about the 2015 race season by July 1. The resolution calls for 24 days of racing in 2015 with three race days per week. It also stipulates that Colonial Downs must keep its stables and training facilities open during the racing season, which has been a sticking point in negotiations between the horsemen and the track.

It's unclear what practical effect the resolution will have. Moments after the resolution passed, Colonial Downs objected to its wording by saying that the commission didn't have the legal right to stipulate the terms of its contract with the horsemen. Commissioners didn't specify what will happen if Colonial Downs and the horsemen don't come to a contract agreement by July 1.