Fan rats may soon be able to bet the horses at Mulligan's Sports Grille. If all goes as planned for the West Main Street restaurant, it will become the second off-track betting site of its kind in the state, partnering Colonial Downs with a restaurant.
The Virginia Racing Commission is scheduled to hold its next monthly public meeting Aug. 24, during which it will consider the proposed marriage of Mulligan's and off-track betting. This model was first attempted at Finn McCool's Irish Pub in Innsbrook.
“It's been very successful,” says Victor Harrison, executive secretary for the commission. “People are happy, and the wagers have been higher than anticipated.” Harrison says restaurant satellite betting benefits both businesses, bringing in more customers for restaurants and introducing horse racing to a younger crowd.
While the trend is relatively recent, it doesn't reflect a change in law. Horse tracks are allowed as many as 10 satellite facilities, according to state law, but have no stipulations on placing them inside already existing businesses as long as the state approves. Colonial Downs' eight other satellite betting parlors are free standing. Including McCool's, Colonial Downs would have two restaurant-based facilities.
Mulligan's has been in talks with Colonial Downs about serving as host to off-track betting since before the track was built in 1997, according to manager John Sweeney. If approved, Sweeney says, it will take only a matter of days to add the satellite betting.
“Hopefully it will bring some people into the Fan that might not otherwise come,” Sweeney says.