The state of Virginia is slowly moving to bolster its once declining horse racing industry by embracing other forms of gambling.
A recent report from the Washington Post detailed the impact these alternative gaming methods are having on their neighboring state’s economy.
The recently legalized practice of using “slots-style” machines at various off-track gaming facilities has been growing in popularity as several such facilities have been opened this year.
The most prominent of these facilities are the Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, one of which just opened in Richmond last week.
The first location opened in New Kent back in April and has been a hit with the local gambling aficionados.
The New Kent spot garnered $58 million in wagers and holds over 600 machines. These machines operate in a very similar manner to traditional slot machines with some required caveats to fit with legal loopholes.
Instead of deciding winners due to random chance, the outcomes are decided by historic horse race results. They still, however, display the same aesthetics (fruit and No. 7 icons) that gaming fans would be accustomed to.
If these machines were intended as a test to gauge local interest in gaming, they’ve fairly conclusively shown that the public desire is there. And that’s good news for a state looking to boost its finances.
The Rosie’s are owned by the Colonial Downs Group which is reopening the Colonial Downs track next month for the first time since 2014.
The Group is licensed to open up to 10 offtrack gaming facilites as well, meaning more emporiums could be well on the way in the near future.
Governor Ralph Northam has weighed in having approved of the reopening of the historical venue, as he believes it could have a much-needed positive economical impact.
"I wouldn’t say it’s a head start,” Northam told the Bristol Herald Courier. “The General Assembly approved Colonial Downs reopening. Part of that package was the slot machines in different localities across Virginia.
“They are doing very well. We just want to make sure — as we move forward with casinos, with gambling in the commonwealth of Virginia — that we do it responsibly. As governor, that’s a priority of mine.”
The state has been under pressure to capitalize on gambling interest within its own borders due to a loss of business to nearby Maryland.
The opening of the MGM National Harbor has been pulling potential consumers away from Virginia’s recreational and tourism industry. The hope is for the reopening of Colonial Downs and off-track facilities to keep them at home.
Beyond next month’s reopening, the Virginia gaming industry only stands to get bigger and bigger as the proposed Bristol Resort and Casino was approved by a general assembly back in February.
The project will cost up to $250 million, but studies project it could general an annual economic impact of $1.5 billion by the year 2027.
The ownership group expected to develop the casino resort are quite bullish on its prospects, as they made clear in a statement.
"The legislature approved the ‘Rosie’s model’ with one purpose in mind, to save horse racing in Virginia. Our efforts aim to serve a much broader goal. Bringing a destination resort and casino to Bristol [and a very limited number of other similarly situated cities] will benefit those communities and entire surrounding regions, in a meaningful way. These benefits include a significant number of new jobs and additional tax revenue to those localities."