A new horse racing parlor in the West End got the go-ahead from county officials Tuesday night.
The off-track betting parlor will happen at Big Al's Sports Bar on Cox Road, right across from a preschool.
The owner of the neighboring, private Primrose School worries that the gambling will create a negative atmosphere near the children. Despite opposition from the school, county officials voted unanimously to change the area's zoning to allow the gambling. Now, customers will be able to bet on horse races happening at Colonial Downs.
Steve Richter, owner of Primrose School, says he specifically chose the spot because at that time, a gambling facility wasn't allowed to be built nearby.
The restaurant's owner, Al Coleman, says the races will attract more business, not the unwelcome kind.
"…No more than people coming and sitting at the bar and watching sports. It's the same thing," said Coleman of his clientele.
Richter says 200 children attend the school, which is about 500 feet from the restaurant. Richter worries the gambling could bring a bad element to the shopping center, with possible vandalism, trespassing, or drunk driving.
"I invested here knowing that these types of businesses could not operate around me, like in 2006 when I opened the school," said Richter to the Board of Supervisors.
Supporters of the off-track betting parlor say other similar facilities in the Richmond area haven't caused any extra rowdiness. The Henrico County police chief said none of those places had an unusually high number of incidences.
However, Richter fears that perception could be reality, especially with parents.
"(Off-track betting) could add an element of risk that I'm not willing to accept…I invested in this county, because I knew this county supported schools and education," added Richter.
Henrico County also supports business. Officials say Big Al's will pay tax on the betting. The off-track betting spot at Big Al's is set to open the beginning of March.
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