The following appeared in the Emporia Independent Messenger and was written by Mark Mathews.
On Wednesday Emporia City officials, staff and city government representatives were eagerly awaiting the breaking news. Then it came.
Colonial Downs Group Chief Operating Officer Aaron Gomes announced Colonial Downs is investing $20 million on a gaming investment venture in the city.
Gomes said Rosie’s Gaming Emporium would bring the city at least 100 jobs with a minimum wage of $15 an hour. The average compensation package totals $47,000 annually. The 150-gaming machine venue is expected to bring entertainment for citizens and visitors to Emporia and tax revenue to the city coffers.
There is a catch. The citizens of Emporia will have to pass a referendum allowing the business to locate in the city. Voters will have to sign a petition to get the initiative on the ballot. Should voters approve the establishment, its location will be at the intersection of I-95 and Hwy. 58.
Emporia native Lisa Speller is the Colonial Downs Group vice president of community affairs and public relations. She is excited about the possibility of Rosie’s landing in her hometown.
“Emporia will always be home,” Speller said. “Working for a company like Colonial Downs, a company based right here in Virginia, with values focused on building strong communities is empowering and uplifting. I want to see Emporia have good jobs and the tax revenue it needs to grow and thrive. That’s what will happen if voters here say yes to this referendum and yes to hosting a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. I can’t wait to get this campaign underway. This is a wonderful moment for a city that means everything to me.”
Rosie’s Gaming Emporium is located in New Kent, Richmond, Vinton, Dumfries, and Hampton. Emporia would mark the company’s sixth Virginia location.
Gomes said Rosies has spurred economic growth in the municipalities it is located in and expects to see Emporia prosper as well. Emporia City Manager William Johnson agreed.
“Today is a day we’ve been waiting for, for the last 12 months,” City Manager William Johnson said. “I’m pleased to say that when we took this to the mayor and council, there wasn’t a single person that didn’t agree with this project.”
Johnson said he expects Rosie’s to be operational in the latter part of this year or early 2022 if voters approve the venture.