HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Colonial Downs is going to great lengths to bring horse racing to a new generation. For the first time, the track is bringing off-track betting to a restaurant.
The track calls it an "experiment", and it'll happen at Finn McCool's Irish Pub in The Shoppes at Innsbrook. Track leaders are trying to attract the estimated 20,000 people who work in Innsbrook, not to mention all the other people who live in the Far West End. But not everyone's convinced it's a good idea, yet.
At Finn McCool's, it's a race to the finish line, in more ways than one. Crews are coming down the stretch with all the things you need for off-track betting. That includes wagering screens, an ATM, and ten televisions showing five tracks at once.
"With this format, you can kind of keep it where you have these five going off within 15 or 20 minutes of each other, no one's stepping over, it's easier for the player to play and play well," said Lori Lewis, Director of OTB Operations for Colonial Downs.
The work has been going on, even though Colonial Downs received approval for it just this morning, when the Virginia Racing Commission gave a unanimous, "okay". Of the track's nine off-track betting sites, this will be the first to open inside a restaurant.
"So we're going to a place where we already know that customers come in and we're gonna introduce them to a new form of entertainment," said Jeanna Bouzek, VP of Operations for Colonial Downs.
But at least one fellow business owner had some concerns about hours of operation
"We've got a nice business, and I'm hoping to continue for quite a while there, in that location, just concerned about the impact this will have, and I don't know what to expect," said Dr. Patty Daylor, an optometrist with Family Vision Care of Richmond, which has offices just two doors away from the pub.
The racing commission was given assurance that the OTB site will operate only during restaurant hours, which go until approximately 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, ending earlier the rest of the week. Track leaders were confident the betting operation will be a runaway hit.
"We're just as good a neighbor as anybody else. They'll be happy that we're there in the next six months," Bouzek said.
The wagering operation will open Wednesday, and Colonial Downs got approval just in time. Thoroughbred racing's biggest event, the Kentucky Derby, runs this Saturday.