Bettors have responded enthusiastically to Virginia’s foray into expanded gambling, wagering $70.8 million last month at two new casinos opened by Colonial Downs.
“I’d rather come down here instead of buying a scratch ticket,” said Clyde DeBoll, a 65-year-old retiree from Henrico as he entered the New Kent race track with a friend a little before 9 on a recent weekday morning. “It’s more for the excitement and entertainment for me.”
May was the New Kent location’s first full month in business. A second location opened in Vinton, a small town outside Roanoke, on May 9. A third is scheduled to open in Richmond this month and a fourth later this year in Hampton. (Plans to expand into Northern Virginia and Southside Virginia are also in the works, but will be subject to a local referendum.)
Branded as Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, the casinos are filled with hundreds of historical horse racing machines, which the General Assembly approved in 2018 to provide a revenue stream to revive the state’s horse racing industry, which all but collapsed when Colonial Downs, the state’s only live race track, closed in 2014.
The games look and function like slot machines but rely on pari-mutuel wagering pools to set jackpots and draw on the results of randomly selected old horse races to pick winners.
The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.