International Game Technology is adding its first Historic Horse Racing (HHR) machines to Virginia.
The group joins 2,274 existing HHR machines around the state (as of January), according to the Virginia Racing Commission.
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The commission reported a handle of $189.7 million in January, with percentage commissions going to the VRC, state and the localities facilities where they are situated. Reports of the number of terminals and handles are released monthly.
The IGT distribution agreement is with Exacta Systems, and the terminals will be available at Peninsula Pacific Entertainment-owned facilities in the state, according to a news release.
"As the historical horse racing segment continues to grow across the U.S., Exacta Systems is thrilled to partner with leading content provider IGT to ensure that players have access to the highest caliber game content and cabinets in the market," Jeremy Stein, Exacta Systems CEO, said in the news release. "The recent deployment of IGT's historical racing machines in Virginia introduces a compelling, casino-style entertainment experience that is new to the Commonwealth and will help drive growth for our customers."
Those Virginia gaming facilities include Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations in Richmond, Hampton, Vinton and Dumfries. Collectively, they employ more than 1,000 people in the state.
The Virginia General Assembly approved gambling using HHR machines and the sale of the racetrack in 2018.
It was expected that $2.4 billion would be wagered on HHR at Colonial Downs and the satellite locations by its second year, according to an estimate filed with the state by VRC.
Like Slot Machines
The slot machine-like terminals allow the bettor to wager on races that have already occurred, chosen at random. The payout is uses the same pari-mutuel wagering that is used in horse racing.
It went live in April 2019 at Colonial Downs with about 600 HHR machines installed at the track, under the operation of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium.
Rosie’s was able to place 2,100 HHR machines at the track and in off-site locations in Richmond, Hampton and Vinton, Colonial Downs lists on its site. Machine distribution is based on the population of each facility's location.
Another site opened in Dumfries last month, with availability for up to 150 machines. The Dumfries location installed fewer machines when opening to allow for social distancing in the venue because of the pandemic, according to a report from Inside NoVa.
The VRC allows for 3,000 HHR machines — for now.
"IGT's distribution agreement with Exacta Systems enables us to pursue exciting new growth opportunities like those offered in Virginia's expanding historical horse racing market," Nick Khin, IGT chief operating officer for gaming, said in the release.
Kentucky Saves HHR Wagering
Virginia joins Kentucky in having IGT machines. In mid-February, Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation to preserve the legal status of historical horse racing machines — a key revenue source for the state’s signature industry.
The Kentucky legislature had to approve the new legislation after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in September that the machines did not qualify as pari-mutuel wagering. Gov. Andy Beshear and state lawmakers said after the ruling that they would seek legislation to ensure that the machines were legal.
More than $2 billion was wagered on HHR machines in Kentucky the previous fiscal year, according to the Associated Press.
Tax Revenue for Virginia
At launch, Colonial Downs Group estimated the HHR machines and Rosie’s facilities should provide $25 million in annual tax revenue.
Colonial Downs first hosted live thoroughbred horse racing in 1997, and ran through 2013 before a disagreement between former track owner Jacobs Entertainment and the horsemen’s association disbanded thoroughbred racing at the track. Harness racing continued until 2014.
Horse racing resumed in summer 2019 after the track’s purchase by Revolutionary Racing, based in Chicago, with the condition that the company be allowed to host HHR terminals.
The track’s signature thoroughbred race is the Grade 3 Virginia Derby, with a typical purse of $200,000. At publication time, a 2021 schedule for live racing at Colonial Downs was not available.
Virginia launched its online sports betting market in January.