NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — The Colonial Downs horse race track in New Kent County will be shutting down on Nov. 1.
According to the CEO, Jeffrey P. Jacobs, the Virginia Racing Commission did not agree to a new proposed racing plan and he turned in his racing license at the commission’s meeting Wednesday morning.
Jacobs released a full statement regarding the closing. The full statement can be read here.
Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart said the track had wanted Virginia Racing Commission to approve a new contract with a new horsemen’s group, after ten months of dispute over race schedules with another group.
“Our belief is that, in this day and age, the best economic model is to have a shorter race meet with higher purses that attracts better horses,” Stewart said.
Colonial Downs said it wanted fewer races of higher quality, instead of more races spreading out the prize money. The contract dispute meant no racing this summer. According to the website for the horsemen group at odds with Colonial Downs, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the track wanted to race six days over two weeks, while the association wanted 24 days over eight weeks.
“Before it started, we had about a 170 employees and we were paying the state and the localities that we operated in about $2 million dollars a year in pari-mutuel taxes,” Stewart said.
Stewart said most of the employees would lose their jobs.
At one of Colonial Downs’ off-track betting sites in Chesapeake, a sign said it was closed for Wednesday’s meeting and asked for help to approve the new horsemen group.
Robert Minnix, a regular bettor, said he was shocked the track was closing.
“I’ve been an avid horse player for years and years and this was the only thing I looked forward to in Virginia, was being able to play the horses,” he said.
A spokesman for Colonial Downs said the owner will keep the property and maintain the track.
WAVY News left messages seeking comment with the Virginia Racing Commission and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.