Approvals for simulcast wagering and historical horse racing at future Rosie’s Gaming Emporium sites at Colonial Downs in New Kent and in Vinton were approved this morning by the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) at its monthly meeting in downtown Richmond.
Aaron Gomes, COO of the Colonial Downs Gaming Group, gave an update on recent activities. This past Monday, they broke ground on their fourth Rosie’s location in Hampton, in the Power Plant complex next to the Bass Pro Shops. That site is expected to open in September once the Rosie’s locations in New Kent, Vinton and Richmond open. Colonial has received unanimous City Council approvals in all four jurisdictions to this point. They have invested $100 million so far in these projects.
As of now, Colonial Downs has 50 employees but come the next VRC meeting in April, Gomes said there will be 350 employees on board. A job fair is being held at the New Kent track today and again on March 14th. That Rosie’s Gaming Center will have a ribbon cutting on April 18th and a Grand Opening celebration on Friday May 3rd — Kentucky Oaks Day. The Vinton location will open April 30th with 150 HHR terminals — 16 in a high limit area, 50 in a smoking area and the rest in non-smoking. A large bar will be located in the middle of the Vinton facility.
The current Off Track Betting Centers operated by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) will transfer over to the Colonial Downs Group and will be rebranded as VA-Horseplay centers. They will continue to operate in their current format, offering live simulcast wagering seven days and evenings a week. Only the Rosie’s Gaming locations will offer historical horse racing. The four current Virginia Bets OTBs — Breakers Sports Grill, Ponies & Pints, The Windmill OTB Sports Grill and Buckets Bar & Grill — combined to handle over $32 million in 2018.
Colonial Downs General Manager John Marshall said the barn area and track (for training) will open on July 25th. The 15-day race meet will begin August 8th and run through September 7th, and the Virginia Derby will be held August 31st. Reconstruction of the dirt track will begin in April and he said, “Horsemen will be pleased when exercise riders and their horses set foot on the track that first day of training. They will be happy with the surface itself and the cushion underneath.”
Marshall said a stakes schedule will be released in March, and the condition book will feature a complement of both turf and dirt races at varied distances. “There is a strong desire to dominate with turf,” he said, “And hypothetically, we’d look for a 80/20 ratio. Ultimately though, we believe the horsemen will tell us which races are going to go and which ones aren’t.”
Colonial Downs has been with working closely with the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) to work on the stakes race lineup, the purse structure and condition book. “It’s easier to figure out a purse schedule for the 2019 meet since OTB and Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) revenues have been accumulating in the purse account for several years now ,” said VEA Executive Director Jeb Hannum. “Moving forward, purses will be dictated by how well the historical racing machines perform.”