Virginia purse money going to races out of state

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Money meant for prizes for races here in Virginia is being used to get horses out of the gate in other states.

Right now in Virginia, when you bet on a horse race online, for every dollar you bet, 80 percent goes to the winnings and 20 percent goes the track as well as the Virginia Equine Alliance, the Virginia Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the breeders.

That money is supposed to be used for the prize, or what’s commonly referred to as the purse. The problem is, there’s no live racing in Virginia right now.

01E6320138C74459A3886192044975D4Live thoroughbred racing in Virginia came to a halt in 2014 when a long-running disagreement led to the closing of Colonial Downs in New Kent.

Tuesday, in an effort to jockey support for Virginia’s horse owners and breeders, the Virginia Racing Commission voted $230,000 meant for purses in Virginia races toward prize money for races in Maryland. Last year, the VRC approved $800,000 in purse money for out of state races.

“We need to keep Virginia racing alive until we can bring it back here,” says Frank Petramalo, Executive Director VHBPA the Virginia Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The VRC also voted Tuesday to put $500,000 of the purse money meant for Virginia races to owner’s bonuses for Virginia-bred horses that win in out of state races.

“While we have this down time not racing in Virginia we have people who bred horses in Virginia and want to race,” explained Debbie Easter, President of the Virginia Equine Alliance.

But some fans reject the move.

“This is just a continuing process of siphoning money out the state of Virginia,” says Tad Berman, who started the Virginians for Integrity in Horse Racing Facebook page.

Berman argues the money should stay in Virginia and that VRC should focus on bringing live racing back to the commonwealth.

“When we voted to have racing, we voted to have it here in Virginia, we didn’t vote to have it in other states,” Berman explained to the VRC board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, 8News discovered those like Berman who opposed the use the purse money for out of state races may have had no place in this decision. We found an industry publication advertising the Maryland race and purse bonuses back on June first.

In addition, we also found both the VRC and VEA posted about it on their websites before Tuesday’s vote. 8News asked why it posted when this hadn’t been voted on? We wanted to know if it was a done deal before Tuesday’s vote.

“No, it wasn’t a done deal at all,” Easter said.

Easter says VEA wanted to give owners time to plan for the race that is coming up this Saturday. However, she did admit to 8News their post should have said “pending the vote.”

“We did make a mistake on the website,” Easter replied.

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