The casino-esque gambling parlor that opened in South Richmond last month took in almost as much money as Colonial Downs Group’s two other Rosie’s locations combined, according to a financial report filed with state horse racing regulators.
In July, gamblers pumped about $71.2 million into the slots-like historical horse racing machines installed in a former Kmart building off Midlothian Turnpike.
“The people that are in there love it,” said City Councilman Michael Jones, whose 9th District includes the stretch of Midlothian where Rosie’s opened. “I’m not going to lie, it’s one of the hottest tickets in Richmond.”
In the same period, the main Colonial Downs facility in New Kent County saw almost $49 million wagered through the machines, down from $64 million wagered in New Kent in June, before the Richmond facility opened.
A smaller Rosie’s location in the town of Vinton in Roanoke County took in roughly $22.6 million in July.
The Richmond Rosie’s, which opened July 1, pushed the total amount wagered to about $142.8 million statewide, up from $88.3 million in June.
“We are very pleased with the overall numbers and interest in what Rosie’s has to offer,” said Mark Hubbard, a spokesman for Colonial Downs Group. “We expect New Kent to pick up increased activity with 15 live thoroughbred horse racing dates from August 8 to September 7. We are truly off to the races now!”
Most of the money wagered through the machines, about $132.6 million, was distributed back to winning players. Colonial Downs Group kept $8.3 million in July. The machines generated about $1.8 million in state and local tax revenues for the month, including $181,569 for the city of Richmond and roughly $496,000 for New Kent, which gets a larger revenue cut as the host county for the Colonial Downs racetrack.
The Rosie’s locations also feature simulcast horse racing, allowing players to wager on races at tracks throughout North America. Company financial reports show about $3.3 million in simulcast wagering for July, a number dwarfed by the betting activity on the terminals that look like traditional slot machines and don’t require any horse racing knowledge to play.
Since the first Rosie’s opened in New Kent in mid-April, players have wagered almost $317 million through the historical horse racing machines, generating about $18.2 million for Colonial Downs Group and almost $4 million in state and local tax revenues.
Full-blown casinos and traditional slot machines remain illegal under state law. Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill legalizing historical horse racing machines, allowing Colonial Downs Group to launch its gambling enterprise. The state is conducting a study of casinos and sports betting and other gambling options to help policymakers decide whether they should continue to loosen the state’s anti-gambling stance. Currently, the state only allows gambling on the Virginia Lottery, horse racing and charitable games like bingo.
When the historical horse racing bill was presented in the legislature, supporters pitched it primarily as a way to reopen Colonial Downs and revive Thoroughbred racing in Virginia.
Victoria Cobb, president of the socially conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said she wasn’t surprised to see an initial revenue bump from the gambling expansion.
“Even Colonial Downs saw short-term success when it first opened, but over time it became nothing but a boondoggle for the state and a complete failure,” said Cobb, who opposed the bill legalizing the machines. “Our fear is the long-term, devastating impact of gambling on individuals and communities that politicians who benefit from the gambling industry tend to ignore.”
Richmond police logs show five calls for service to the Rosie’s facility for July. Two involved missing or stolen wallets, and one was for a fight over parking. The two other calls were for a missing person who was later found and a drug violation.
Police spokesman James Mercante said the company’s security precautions—such as hiring off-duty officers and meeting regularly with police officials—appear to be working, and reports from the facility aren’t “much different” from other businesses in the area.
Jones said Colonial Downs Group has been a “good neighbor” since moving into South Richmond. He said he’s heard some concerns about the gambling industry preying on the poor, but he doesn’t see much difference between the Rosie’s and adult-oriented arcades popping up elsewhere in Richmond.
“If people are in there, that’s their form of entertainment,” Jones said. “More power to them.”
With an average of 1,450 machines in operation per day in July, players put about $3,177 into each machine per day. That generated roughly $244 in revenue per machine per day to be divided among Colonial Downs Group and state and local governments.
The company is planning to open a fourth Rosie’s in Hampton in the fall, and the company is pursuing voter referendums in Danville and the town of Dumfries in Prince William County that would allow it to expand further.