Virginia where the first English settlement was established in what would become the United States was initially a betting friendly territory. But since importing the first horses from Europe in 1609, the Old Dominion State has slid toward the back of the pack when it comes to gambling.
Today, the state has relatively restrictive gambling laws, which prohibit casinos, cardrooms and greyhound racing as well as online wagering. It does, however, offer a state lottery and allows horse racing and off-track betting at licensed facilities, as well as charitable gaming on bingo, raffles and the like.
The state has a feast-or-famine history when it comes to horse racing. The first racetrack in Virginia was a 1-mile oval opened in 1739 in Williamsburg. At least seven other thoroughbred tracks opened in the colony during the 18th century.
But scandal and corruption ultimately led the state Legislature to ban gambling at horse tracks in 1894 and it wasn’t until that voters in 1988 approved a referendum allowing pari-mutuel gambling on horse racing — as long as local voters said yes. Many saw that as a delayed reaction to a Virginia-bred horse, Secretariat, winning the Triple Crown in 1973.
At least five racetracks opened in the wake of the vote, but none was successful. So in 1992, the Legislature offered another inducement – creation of a network of at least a half-dozen “satellite wagering facilities.”
That paved the way for the opening of Colonial Downs in New Kent in 1997, a track that was situated far from population centers and designed to befit form the far-flung OTB betting.
That didn’t happen, however. The track ceased offering thoroughbred racing in 2013 and halted standardbred harness racing the following year.
But hope springs eternal, and the approval of historical horse racing games, slot-machine-like machines that offer the opportunity to bet on historical racing, has breathed new life into the track. New management plans to offer 15 live racing programs in 2019.
Legal Virginia Horse Racing Sites
- NYRABets horse racing site Virginia
- TVG bet app
While many online horse racing betting websites of advance deposit wagering, which allows residents to bet on horse racing via telephone or the internet, some see Virginia’s online gambling laws authorizing pari-mutuel betting as an invitation in 2021.