DUMFRIES, Va. — At a strip-mall Italian restaurant, the visiting businesspeople laid out a spread of chicken wings and potato skins, arranged their piles of bumper stickers and settled in to greet the locals.
On a laptop, video testimonials from New Kent County officials played to a mostly empty room, singing the praises of the new gambling venture run by Colonial Downs Group that they said brought jobs and tax revenue.
While other casino projects are on hold, voters in two Virginia communities — Dumfries and Danville — will decide next month if they want to open their doors to the miniature versions run by Colonial Downs, an early test of Virginians’ appetite for more gambling.
Over an hour and a half at the company’s Dumfries event last week, only a handful of voters stopped by to hear the sales pitch as the company tries to expand its horse-racing enterprise into the outskirts of Northern Virginia.
The company has already opened gambling parlors in New Kent, Richmond and the town of Vinton in Roanoke County. A fourth is set to open next week in Hampton, and the company is still considering a location in Chesapeake. The off-track facilities — which feature historical horse racing games that strongly resemble traditional slot machines — operate under the brand Rosie’s Gaming Emporium.
Referendum wins would give Colonial Downs a foothold in two new parts of the state, strengthening the company’s position as the first casino-esque operator given permission to open in Virginia.