- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — State lawmakers are considering a new form of pari-mutuel betting aimed at horse racing fans as a possible answer to Virginia’s transportation-funding woes.

Legislation filed for the General Assembly’s special session would pave the way for “instant racing,” a game in which bettors can wager on races that already have been run.

The game, which Arkansas has adopted, uses an ATM-like machine with video of past races.

Bettors have access to the same information they would have in any race, such as the records of the horses, jockeys and trainers, but the players don’t know when or where the race took place.

Delegate Phil Hamilton, the Newport News Republican who filed the legislation, estimates the game could bring in $500 million annually.

Mr. Hamilton’s bill would dedicate 49 percent of the profits to the transportation trust fund.

“It has the potential to provide hundreds of millions of dollars,” Mr. Hamilton said. “It might take several years before that potential is realized.”

If passed, the measure would take advantage of Colonial Downs and the nine off-track betting parlors throughout Virginia established after voters approved pari-mutuel wagering and horse racing in a 1988 referendum.

Another parlor is authorized under state law but has not been built.

Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart anticipated that it would take 18 months to two years to fully implement the game statewide.

“We’ve been informally discussing it with a number of political leaders,” Mr. Stewart said.

The special session on transportation is set to begin Sept. 27.

Mr. Hamilton also is asking fellow lawmakers to approve a bill that would let a judge assess a “traffic congestion fee” on anyone cited for reckless driving in an accident that resulted in significant traffic delays. The fee tentatively is capped at $10,000.

He said he hopes his legislation will break the deadlock between the Senate and House of Delegates that has resulted in the four-day special session.

Citing a budget they say already is swollen, House Republicans refuse to consider raising taxes to support transportation. They say that the state can rely on existing taxes or use the budget surplus.

Senate leaders say that those plans don’t solve the entire problem and risk taking money away from schools, health care and public safety.

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