Voters in Emporia City and Amherst County are voting on local referenda about whether or not to allow the Colonial Downs Group to bring slots-style pari-mutuel gaming with new Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations. Proponents say the facilities will bring local jobs and revenue for the locality, but opponents say that profit could come at the expense of locals.
“Voters approving pari-mutuel wagering in Amherst County will allow a Rosie’s to open. That means that dozens of new jobs will need to be filled. 100 new jobs will be created as a result, offering at least $15/hr and a $47,000 average annual salary with benefits,” amherstwins.com states. “Amherst County will gain an estimated $800,000 in new annual tax revenue from gaming taxes with a total new tax revenue stream of $1,900,000 coming from gaming, sales, meals, real estate, and business personal property taxes.”
The Amherst proposal has faced opposition from outside non-profits and a local organization. Amherst Citizens Against Rosie’s held a rally at the end of September at a local church, according to The Amherst New Era-Progress. Organizer Tobey Thurston has launched a GoFundMe which has raised $8,375 from 35 donors, with the goal of funding billboards and signs in opposition to a local Rosie’s Emporium.
“Chief concerns are traffic safety and the increased crime associated with gambling establishments. And the strife addicted gamblers bring to their loved ones increases the need for social services to help them,” states a flyer Thurston posted on Facebook. “Studies confirm that the majority of tax revenue Rosie’s Emporiums bring to their host counties/ municipalities come from gambling addicts, who spend the most time betting and losing on the slot machine-like games. The county’s promised business growth is not worth the cost in human suffering!”
A Rosie’s ad featured local officials from localities that currently have Rosie’s Emporiums in place, including Richmond City Councilmember Michael Jones.
“What’s happened, they brought visibility, they brought light, they brought vibrancy, all to this area. That’s what I needed as a council person, and it happened so much quicker than we actually estimated,” Jones said.
Jones is now working to get a casino with a different operator approved in his city.
Conflicts with Skill Games
Skill games are not the same as pari-mutuel games, although both are considered slots-style gaming experiences.
NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler is suing Virginia over its recent skill games ban, which coincides with the expansion of casinos and mobile sports betting in Virginia, although pari-mutuel gaming was already legal. Convenience store owners who used to operate skill games before the ban say that the ban is discriminatory and unjust.
Sadler criticized the Emporia pari-mutuel proposal at a September city council meeting, according to The Emporia Independent Messenger. He’s not strictly opposed to pari-mutuel gaming, but wants a level playing field. Officials responded that they didn’t have control over the bans, but supported Rosie’s proposal because of the economic benefits.
“There are five proposed casinos coming to Virginia,” Sadler said according to The Messenger. “Rosie’s is expanding. Rosie’s now gets to come to Emporia and have a monopoly on that business. They’re taking a part of our business that we had 20-plus years and gift wrapping it and giving it to some people from out of town who never voted for ya’ll, and they come here with a monopoly on that business.”
In a statement, Colonial Downs spokesman Mark Hubbard said, “Virginia has embraced gaming and Emporia has a unique opportunity to bring jobs, a new form of entertainment and a tax generator that can help with important local services like education, roads, public safety and workforce development. We look forward to being partners with Emporia and its residents and hope after reviewing all the information they will vote yes for Rosie’s and paramutuel wagering.”