Legislation advancing through the Virginia General Assembly would increase the total number of slot-like machines allowed in the state from the current limit of 3,000 to 5,500 machines.
For a proposed gaming parlor in Dumfries, that would mean Rosie’s Gaming Emporium could have up to 1,800 slot-like machines. It is currently expected to have no more than 150 machines.
Colonial Downs Group is developing the local gaming center that will be similar to Rosie’s locations elsewhere in the state. The proposed increase is intended to offset the loss of revenue the company is projected to experience if five casinos are allowed to open in the state.
Rosie’s has historical horse racing machines, which are slot-like units for betting on pre-recorded horse races that are featured at all Rosie’s locations. The play is similar to a slot machine.
Resort-style casinos have been pitched in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond, with a 2019 legislative study finding they would generate about $260 million annually in state gaming taxes.
Those proposed casinos would negatively impact other current, legal forms of gaming with Colonial Downs operation hit the hardest, according to the legislative report, with a 45% decrease in revenue.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, told InsideNoVa on Friday the legislation includes allowing the company to have an additional 2,500 machines statewide. This legislation has passed both the House of Delegates and Senate, but the final version of the bill has not been finalized.
“It’d be the biggest economic development in Dumfries in 30 years,” Surovell said. “We’d double their budget without raising taxes.”
Surovell said Colonial Downs Group told state legislators in 2018 that the company would re-open the horse track in New Kent County if lawmakers would allow the company to open gaming parlors with historical horse racing machines.
Since then, the company has invested $300 million in opening its horse track and gaming parlors around Virginia, Surovell said.
Surovell said Virginia residents are spending millions of dollars in Maryland gaming facilities, and allowing for more machines at Rosie’s locations would help keep some of that money in Virginia.
Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-29th District, said he opposes the proposal, taking issue with the process of how the company has proposed no more than 150 machines to voters ahead of the required voter referendum in November, then months later asked to increase the number of machines significantly.
“It’s a big change to have voters think they’re voting on 150 machines, but then get almost 2,000,” McPike told InsideNoVa on Friday. “So, that’s essentially a casino-sized facility.”
McPike’s district includes Manassas, Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County, but doesn’t include Dumfries.
150 FOR NOW
Mark Hubbard, Colonial Downs Group spokesman, said the company is currently focused on opening its proposed Rosie’s in Dumfries with up to 150 machines. “We’re not proposing right now to do anything other than have 150 machines at the shopping center in Dumfries,” Hubbard said.
The referendum approved in November by Dumfries voters allows for pari-mutuel wagering, and was not directly tied to any number of machines, but permit applications currently under consideration by town council note the 150 maximum.
“We don’t want to put anything in Dumfries that is not supported and embraced by the town itself and its leaders,” Hubbard told InsideNoVa.
Hubbard said the company didn’t know what the Virginia General Assembly would consider in its 2020 session.
“The most important thing is we’re not going to propose anything that the town is not seeking and endorsing to create jobs and generate tax revenues,” Hubbard said.
Colonial Downs Group also has voter approval to open proposed locations in Danville and Chesapeake, Hubbard said.
On Tuesday, Dumfries council members will consider for the second time Colonial Downs Group’s request for a conditional-use permit application to build its proposed Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in the town at the Triangle Shopping Center with no more than 150 machines.
On Feb. 4, the council voted 3-4 to deny the request for a conditional-use permit.
Council member Cydny Neville told InsideNoVa after the meeting that because the shopping center had a public library, she didn’t think the location was a good site.
The company has said the local site would have 150 employees with an average annual salary of $47,000. The parlors feature slot-like machines based on historic horse race results, a restaurant and live entertainment. The company announced in January it would increase its minimum wage at all locations to $15 an hour and $9 an hour for tipped positions.
Colonial Downs estimates it would pay the town $640,000 yearly in local gaming tax revenue, according to the permit application. The company also plans to donate $100,000 a year in the areas they operate as part of a charitable giving program.
Colonial Downs is proposing to lease 18,364 square feet at the shopping center from Curtis Properties Inc., according to its application. The plaza has 79,435 square feet in all.