The Colonial Downs Group fielded questions from Dumfries’ town residents Wednesday evening as part of the community engagement process for its $389 million gaming resort proposed to be built on the Potomac landfill next to Interstate 95.
The public town hall, a virtual event, was the first of two information sessions being held by the Colonial Downs Group and their parent company, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. The second public town hall is scheduled for Thursday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
The project, to be called The Rose, is being proposed by the same company that brought Rosie’s Gaming Emporium to Dumfries last month. The storefront gaming outlet opened Jan. 8 with 94 slot-machine-like historical horse race betting machines in Triangle Shopping Plaza.
Following are some of the questions that were submitted either during the event or via email, and the responses from Peninsula Pacific Entertainment and Colonial Downs Group executives. The companies allotted only an hour for questions, but encouraged residents to continue to submit questions via email to Dumfriesinfo@colonialdowns.com.
Will the construction of the gaming facility cause an increase in traffic?
“It's an important issue to resolve but often not necessarily the easiest one,” said Aaron Gomes, chief operations officer for Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. “We have hired two engineering firms to work on this and have had numerous meetings with staff and VDOT. Our goal is to come up with a plan that minimizes impact on the community and maximizes ease of access to guess.”
Gomes noted a traffic plan has been submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation for comment and the company will not be moving forward without knowing the effect on traffic.
“Our prime hours are non rush hour hours,” he added. “And so it certainly would not increase traffic dramatically.”
Why is Colonial Downs Group moving so quickly with the project?
“It may seem like we're moving very quickly,” said Gomes.” However, we've been working in the town and county for a long time, over two years to be specific.”
Gomes is correct. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 that allows Colonial Downs to have up to 1,800 historic horse racing machines in the Dumfries location, which would allow for the larger project the group is now proposing.
Colonial Downs plans to seek planning commission and town council approval this spring. If all goes according to plan, the landfill closure and groundbreaking would begin by August and the resort could open in January 2023.
“And if you can imagine the legislators do not just pass a bill. A lot of dialogue goes into it at various stages of the process,” Gomes added. “The bottom line is this is not something that just popped up overnight. We have been at this for a very long time.”
What is the benefit to Dumfries?
“[There is a ] direct dollar benefit from the gaming taxes on the machines as well as the other taxes including real estate sales tax, etc, just to the town of Dumfries,” Gomes said. “It will nearly triple [the town’s] budget, [and create] 640 plus jobs directly at the property with a minimum of $15 per hour wages. And of course, we donate.”
The Colonial Downs’ presentation said the average annual salary for the gaming facilities employees would be $47,000 a year. In addition, 96 professional and managerial jobs would be created, paying an average of $70,000 a year.
According to an economic impact study prepared by Dr. Terry Clower at George Mason University, the project would generate nearly $11 million a year in tax revenue for the town and $6.7 million a year for Prince William County.
Will this be a casino?
“In terms of gaming, no, this is not a full-fledged casino like you would go to in Las Vegas or Atlantic City,” Gomes said. “From a gambling standpoint, we will only have machines, no table games. So we are not a casino. We offer historical horse racing games, which from the customer's perspective play almost identical to a slot machine in Las Vegas. But the math is very different.”
The betting machines use an algorithm based on results of historical horse races. Normal slot machines use a random number generator on the back end that dictates when the reels stop, but Rosie’s machines have a built-in library of races; every time patrons spin they are betting on a horse race that took place in the past.
“What the Native American casinos offer is based on bingo math, and a central server determines the results of the machine,” Gomes said. “Ours are very similar. But the central server rather than being based on bingo math is based on the results of previously conducted horse races.”
Will this new gaming facility cause an increase in crime?
“We have not seen an uptick in crime related to any of our other gaming facilities,” Gomes said. “In general, [increased crime] is not something you see with gaming establishments of any kind again. We have developed many facilities across the country over several decades and we have not seen an increase [in crime] anywhere we have operated.”
“Will there be some additional cause for fender benders and petty theft? Maybe some, but no more than any other business that would attract more people to the region,” Gomes noted.
Marshall Curtis, Colonial Downs’ vice president of safety and security, said the company has developed a detailed security plan specific to the new Dumfries location.
“We engage local law enforcement early and we engage them often,” Curtis said. “We have state-of-the-art technology when it comes to security applications, hardware surveillance equipment, and we will incorporate hundreds of surveillance cameras. Part of our standard operating procedures is that we actually are required to cooperate with law enforcement investigations. So we will be very engaged with the Dumfries Police Department and the principal county police as we are now at the Dumfries property.”
What will the dining options be like?
“Right now, the facilities are slated with eight restaurants and bars,” said Stefan Huba, chief development officer for Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. “One of those restaurants is what I call an upscale or fine casual. … It’s about 225 seats with an open kitchen where you can engage with the chefs… We also have a 225-seat sports bar that’s your typical sports bar for great wings, and a lot of TVs to enjoy sporting events.”
Huba added, “We also have our food hall...There’s potential for some local businesses to come in and open and present their local fare in that food hall, which will seat another 185. Then in the hotel, there’s a coffee shop and an Italian bistro.”
How many jobs will go to Dumfries town residents, and will Colonial Downs Group train new hires?
“So by law, we're not allowed to restrict who gets what jobs and from what region,” Gomes said. “However, we will hold all of our job fairs in the Dumfries and Prince William County areas...and... from our experience wherever we hold job fairs are where you get the most applicants from. So we estimate a majority naturally will come from the Dumfries and immediate surrounding areas.”
Molly Procell, the vice president of human resources for the Colonial Downs Group, said the company has a broad spectrum of jobs available and will be recruiting employees who have experience working for a gaming facility, as well as those who do not.
“We will train so you don't have to have experience to come work for us,” she added.
What are the environmental impacts of building on a landfill?
“As it relates to the environmental impacts...the landfill is currently under the oversight of DEQ – [Virginia] Department of Environmental Quality – and they require certain water testing, water monitoring, air, monitoring, those types of things,” Huba said.
“In terms of building on it, we're really not building on the dump itself, we're building on the 12 or 14 acres that are directly in front of the dump,” Huba noted. “We're not going to be building [the facility/resort] on the dump because you really don't want to penetrate … what’s called a cap on the geosynthetic fabric and the dirt covers … So we’re really not building on top of the landfill, we’re building in front of it.”
During a virtual town council meeting last week, Huba told members of the Dumfries Town Council that the company hired an independent firm to conduct a site assessment and promised to share it with town officials after the meeting. Colonial Downs Group must file a plan to close the landfill with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and will have to monitor the site for 10 years for any needed mitigation.
What is the impact on real estate in the town of Dumfries?
Gomes said the company did not have a definitive answer for Dumfries residents. But based on third-party studies in its other markets, Gomes noted that historically the gaming facilities have increased property values.
Will there be sports wagering?
“So as the legislation currently sits, we will not have sports wagering,” Gomes said.
What type of live entertainment is anticipated, including major entertainers, and what is the average cost for admission?
“I’d say very similar to all of our other properties,” Gomes said. “Each market is very different. We find what sells the best. So I would expect it would all be very high-end entertainers. I mentioned some of our other properties, everything from Journey to Bad Company to Dane Cook … And average price per ticket – again, each show is very different based on how much we pay for the acts, but the acts could cost us anywhere between $10,000 and half a million dollars. So that all depends on that.”
How much parking is planned?
“We have a little over 2,500 parking spaces in the garage and some land and some surface spots,” Huba said.
How many historic horse racing machines will there be in the facility once it's fully operational?
“We have not finalized the number and it will fluctuate slightly as we evolve in operations, but we currently anticipate it being somewhere around 1,500 games,” Gomes said.
What type of hotel room accommodations will be available and what are the room plans?
“The room rates are nearly impossible to tell you,” Gomes said. “We're not that far advanced”
Huba said the hotel will include some suites as well as queen and king rooms. “They will be spacious rooms … fully equipped with the latest technology, Wi-Fi and large flat-screen TVs.”