HHRs In Virginia: What To Know About Historical Horse Racing Machines

Written By Adam Hensley on November 29, 2022 - Last Updated on February 14, 2023
Historical Horse Racing Machines drive Virginia revenue

If you’re familiar with horse racing in Virginia, chances are you’ve seen or used historical horse racing machines.

HHRs boomed in popularity over the past few years. With Virginia’s gambling industry preparing for a full takeoff, let’s take a look at what they are, how to play and more.

What are HHRs?

HHRs give customers the thrill of betting on horse races without waiting around for races to start in real time. These machines let users bet on the outcome of thousands of past horse races. Information about the previous races is kept behind closed doors; bettors won’t know the specific race, where it occurred or which horses and jockeys participated.

Bettors can, however, do their own scouting report. Jockey and trainer win percentages, as well as horse post position, are available for bettors to dissect. Most games give the option for the machine to select the order for customers, which helps expedite the process.

Are HHRs connected to horse racing?

Not in the literal sense. Think of HHRs as a slot machine play.

Virginia law considers HHRs to be pari-mutuel, like traditional live horse racing. However, HHRs’ horse racing connection has nothing to do with actual gameplay. Even though they’re based on the results of previous horse races, HHRs are designed to look and feel like slot machines.

Brief history of Virginia’s historical horse racing machines

Virginia legalized HHRs in 2018 in an attempt to reopen Colonial Downs, the state’s lone horse track. An HHR parlor at Colonial Downs opened in 2019.

According to lasvegasadvisor.com, the latest HHR jackpot cashed in totaled $914,530 at the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Hampton, Virginia.

Where can I use HHRs in Virginia?

Virginians can participate in HHRs in six areas: Collinsville, Colonial Downs, Dumfries, Hampton, Richmond and Vinton.

Currently, two new HHR facilities are under construction in the state, according to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).

Virginia will have nearly 4,000 HHR terminals once the new Emporia and Dumfries locations officially open.

The Virginia Racing Commission regulates HHRs, but that could change

Much like actual horse racing, the Virginia Racing Commission oversees HHRs.

However, more staffing and experience is needed to do so, the JLARC argues. The commission’s October report to the governor and general assembly of Virginia said the “VRC has not taken actions necessary to effectively regulate large-scale commercial gaming, which HHR wagering has become.”

The commission wants a central gaming agency to oversee all of Virginia’s gaming formats, especially when it comes to the technology side of things.

“As the operation and play of gaming becomes more electronic, electronic systems are the most efficient and effective means of monitoring and auditing gaming, especially HHR machines, electronic pull tab machines, and slot machines,” the report states.

Historical horse racing machines remain popular in Virginia

Looking at September’s numbers from the Virginia Historical Horse Racing Commission report, HHRs are alive and well in the state.

HHRs totaled almost $337.8 million in handle that month. Out of the six locations:

  • Richmond tallied the highest handle of roughly $116.1 million.
  • Hampton followed with $94.8 million in September handle.

September 2022’s handle shows a jump of more than $20 million year-to-year. September 2021 tallied a handle of almost $316.1 million. That increase skyrockets when comparing September 2022’s numbers to September 2020’s handle of more than $182.4 million.

HHRs drove the majority of Virginia’s legal wagering growth. According to the JLARC report, HHRs boosted the industry by 54% over the past four years.

Photo by File Photo
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

View all posts by Adam Hensley