The news that Colonial Downs, Virginia’s only racetrack, closed after 17 years should shock no one. Horseracing in general is on the decline nationwide and both Colonial Downs and just about everyone else involved with the industry have been losing money hand over hoof for some time. Visions of horseracing grandeur sold to the General Assembly two decades ago failed to materialize. No one that opposed the introduction of the track is surprised. Along with the track itself, the eight associated off track betting facilities are also being shuttered.
This announcement comes just a short time after yet another Atlantic City casino, the famed Trump Plaza, closed, making it the fourth casino in that ocean side resort city to do so this year alone.
What do these events have in common?
The growing reality that governments, like Virginia’s, that have had their site set on raising revenue off of entertainment gamblers are going to have to look elsewhere for someone to swindle. Whether it’s the economic reality that people simply don’t have the discretionary income to throw away at a casino or racetrack, the proliferation of online gambling or simply old industries that have seen their glory days go by, casinos and racetracks are bad bets not only for gamblers, but for taxpayers as well.
Regardless of the promises made by proponents of new waterfront casinos in Hampton Roads or the vision of a revitalized Colonial Downs, eventually, the honeymoon period ends. The negative impact of gambling on families and communities is well documents, and could be ignored by its proponents and apologists. What can’t be ignored are closed buildings and chain-locked tracks.
Here’s hoping Virginia has seen its last bet.