After much debate, one of the most restrictive gambling states in the country has opened its first casino-style gaming venue.
Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent, Va., which closed because of the decline in horse racing, has reopened. It is now a casino parlor. However, Virginia’s first casino parlor has led some people to review the state’s long-standing opposition to gambling.
Virginians Do Not Gamble, They Race
As long as there have been horses in Virginia, there have been horse races. And, as long as there have been horse races, there have been people who have bet on them. In fact, horse racing has been the only legal form of gambling for all of the state’s existence. People in Virginia have been horse people since it was a British colony. Many people raise and ride horses.
However, the culture and climate of horse racing have changed. Horse racing is no longer seen as the sport of kings or as a noble sport. Instead, many people consider it to be cruel and barbaric. Attendance at race tracks has declined for the last two decades. Race tracks have closed across the country. One of those race tracks was Colonial Downs in New Kent County. When racing began at the track in 1997, 13,000 people came to opening day. However, falling attendance and a dispute with the state and the Horseman’s Association led to its closure in 2014.
Historical Horse Racing Machines
Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law during its last legislative session allowing the track to reopen as a gambling parlor. Most people in Virginia are hesitant to call them casinos. The former Colonial Downs is now Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. The new business has 600 historical horse racing machines. People operate these machines just like slot machines. Rosie’s will also offer a bar, restaurant, and simulcast horse racing.
The hope is by allowing historical horse racing, people will come for the slots and stay for the horse racing.
The company that owns Rosie’s has plans to build and open future gambling facilities in the state. The company will open another Rosie’s this month in Vinton. Vinton is in Roanoke County in the south-central part of the state. The company plans to open another Rosie’s in South Richmond in June. There will also be a Rosie’s opening in Chesapeake and Hampton later this year.
Some people in Virginia are celebrating the possible resurrection of horse racing. However, there are others who are not so sure. Critics have said that Virginia is ignoring its own laws in order to save horse racing. They point out that historical horse racing machines are just like slot machines. They argue that slot machines encourage problem gambling.
In addition, there are critics who say that historical horse racing machines cannot save horse racing on their own. They point to the fact that there are very few young people participating in racing. In addition, they note that participation in live sporting events by people under 40 is low.
By allowing historical horse racing slots, the state of Virginia hopes there will be an increase in investment. It also hopes to rekindle some interest in the race tracks. It remains unclear whether the slots will actually achieve their purpose. If Virginia is able to revitalize its horse racing empire, other states are likely to think about adding gambling. Kentucky could be one of them. The Bluegrass State has a long history of sports racing. It might have an interest in seeing see whether gambling in Virginia helps or hurts the state’s economy.
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