Lt. Gov. John N. Dalton, the Republican candidate for governor, last week endorsed horseracing and pari-mutuel betting in Virginia and predicted that such measures would be passed by the next General Assembly.
Dalton, addressing the Rotary Club at Manassas, said pari-mutuel betting would produce "substantial" revenue for the state, aid travel and tourism and provide a "tremendous boost" to the state's large horse breeding industry.
House of Delegates Democratic leader James M. Thomson, who has played a key role in earlier attempts to approve horseracing, said in a separate interview that it "is hard to prophesy" what a new legislature might do.
Thomson said that Dalton - if elected over Democratic contenders Henry Howell or Andrew Miller - would be unlikely to sway Democratic votes but might affect the way Republicans vote. Both Miller and Howell also favor pari-mutuel betting.
Thomson said a swing of five House votes on a key amendment would have passed pari-mutuel betting in the last legislature.
"Whoever owns the systems, the state would have sweeping authority to regulate activities at the tracks and to guarantee that operations are in strict accord with the law," Dalton said.
"Virginia is a prime breeding ground for champion horses and it makes sense to let them race here," Dalton said. "Virginia bred the greatest race horse of all time, Secretariat, and it's a shame he couldn't run for the money here."
Dalton, addressing about 50 persons, also called for rapid exploration and development of oil in the continental shelf off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. Dalton called for total deregulation of oil and gas. He attacked proposed legislation to limit strip mining, contending that nearly every school and airport in the coal mining areas of southwest Virginia is built on land that has been "surface mined." "We're not going to produce more coal if we eliminate surface going to produce more coal if we eliminate surface mining, Dalton said.
Dalton, like the other gubernatorial candidates, came out strongly for the passage of a $125 million statewide bond issue for higher education, prisons, ports, recreation and mental health.