The Virginia Racing Commission has approved the license for pari-mutuel betting at both the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup in The Plains. With this announcement, the Virginia Gold Cup Association will now host the only two steeplechase events in Virginia with approved pari-mutuel betting.
“It’s very exciting for us,” said Dr. Will Allison, VGCA president. “The [VRC] asked me why were we interested in doing it now, and I said there were two reasons. First of all, technology has advanced so rapidly, that now instead of traditional wagering at a window, we now can wager from a smartphone.
“The second thing I said was that we are in a period of recession which hurts our corporate sponsors, who supply purse money,” he continued. “So we are looking for ways to increase our purse money. This in turn will help the Virginia horsemen.”
VRC Executive Secretary Bernie Hettel said that VGCA started preparation for pari-mutuel betting at their October 2012 event with the help of consultant Michael Pearson. They submitted their application for review at the end of 2012, and VRC approved it last week.
“I’m hopeful that other hunt meets or entrepreneurial-minded people will feature pari-mutuel betting at their events,” Hettel said, noting that Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., has a license for their flat racing. “It would be great if more of the jump people would embrace us. If this proves to be successful—financially lucrative—I’d think other people would want to try it. I think it’s very exciting.”
Hettel believes the Gold Cup races will incorporate mobile betting as well as have standard kiosks. Allison said that they’re using Churchill Downs (Ky.) as a model.
The Virginia Gold Cup  will run on May 4 at Great Meadow in The Plains. The date for the International Gold Cup is Oct. 19.