Manassas Park officials divided over push for new Rosie’s Gaming Emporium location

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partner Sign up for’s free email subscription today.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner and republished with permission. Sign up for’s free email subscription today.

A petition to allow a new Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Manassas Park has cleared the necessary threshold to get the question onto the ballot this November.

On Friday, the Manassas Park registrar’s office certified 533 signatures for the ballot initiative that had been submitted earlier in the week by Churchill Downs Incorporated, the parent company of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. The registrar’s office will now submit the petition to the Prince William County clerk’s office for final sign-off. Churchill Downs representatives said they expect that to come early this week.

In order to get the question on the ballot, the petition needed 450 signatures, or 5% of the city’s voters. The ballot referendum in November will require a majority of voters in the city to pass. If it does, a new Rosie’s would be legal to build in the city, though the plan the company has right now would still require final sign-off from the City Council in the form of a conditional use permit.

Several council members have come out in support of Churchill Downs’ proposal to build the Rosie’s at the Manassas Park Shopping Center on Centreville Road and Manassas Drive, including Michael Carrera, who helped lead the signature collection.

“I’m supportive of the expansion because I think it’ll bring additional revenue to the city of Manassas Park and opportunities for employment for the city residents,” Carrera told InsideNoVa last week.

In Dumfries, where a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium opened in 2021, gaming tax revenues have more than tripled from what they were prior, and Churchill Downs is building an expanded gaming facility with a hotel and theater called The Rose. It’s expected to open next year.

The final Town Council vote in Dumfries to allow the original Rosie’s facility took months of wrangling, with critics arguing that the gambling operations target poor people.

During the 2022 fiscal year, Dumfries, a town of just under 6,000 residents, brought in $843,000 in gaming revenues. Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood, who’s supported the company’s push into the town, told InsideNoVa that concerns about the facility bringing crime or exacerbating gambling addictions haven’t come to fruition.

“It’s helped us to be able to give tax abatements to the community, it’s helped us be able to add more services … we just built a fitness gym outside for the community to have, so we’ve been able to add more amenities, give tax abatements and bring more resources and have more staffing,” Wood said of the additional tax revenues.

But some in Manassas Park are opposed to the idea.

Vice Mayor Alanna Mensing has said that she currently doesn’t support the proposal, and Mayor Jeanette Rishell said the facility would “change the character” of the city.

“We should not be focused on the revenue it will generate. I personally cannot place a price on the character of our city, and I also believe that we can achieve our financial goals by continuing to recruit mainstream businesses,” Rishell told InsideNoVa in an email. “I am not judging or criticizing anyone who gambles, but there is an issue of scale here. Even though there are machines in various businesses now, what Churchill Downs plans to do is on a large scale. They will start with several hundred machines, and if they are successful, there is the potential for them to expand into more businesses at the plaza and to add several hundred more machines.”

Rosie’s emporiums feature slot-like machines that are technically considered “games of skill” under Virginia law and historical horse race betting machines, on which bettors place wagers on old horse race videos in which all identifying information has been stripped. Similar machines are found throughout the commonwealth at gas stations and convenience stores. Churchill Downs is allowed to operate up to 5,000 such machines across the state. The planned location in Manassas Park would include up to 350 machines, and a press release issued by Churchill Downs in June said it would bring 150 jobs.

The company is planning to run a true campaign operation in the city to encourage people to vote for the proposal. Churchill Downs has tapped the law and lobbying firm McGuireWoods to lead the effort.

“We’re trying to just get on the ballot first and foremost … and see how this process starts to play out,” Cisco Davey, the campaign manager for the ballot initiative, told InsideNoVa. “We believe the tax incentives here are really helpful.”

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up