Rosie’s Gaming Emporium eyeing Manassas Park for casino-like operation

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Rosie’s Gaming Emporium is looking to make a push into Manassas Park.

Churchill Downs Inc., the operator of Rosie’s, announced Friday it is collecting signatures to initiate a voter referendum on whether the company could open a casino-like gambling operation in the Manassas Park Shopping Center on Centreville Road.

The company runs six “gaming emporiums” in Virginia: in Dumfries, Richmond, Hampton, Collinsville, New Kent and Vinton. To expand into jurisdictions that have not already approved pari-mutuel gambling (also known as pool betting, by which bettors place wagers not against a bookmaker but against other bettors on the same event), the company must pass a voter referendum. In order to get on the ballot, Churchill Downs and Councilmember Michael Carrera – who submitted the petition to the Prince William County clerk – will need to get signatures from at least 5% of qualified voters.

Carrera told InsideNoVa that his support is based on the potential tax revenues Rosie’s could bring in.

“I’m excited they’ve selected Manassas Park for expansion,” Carrera said. “It’s a business that can probably bring some additional revenues for city services, into the schools, within … the city of Manassas Park. You’re talking about something that’s not too big, that people have requested in the past.”

The city isn’t eligible for one of the five casino licenses the General Assembly has approved. Unlike full-blown casinos, Rosie’s offers slot machines and historical horse race terminals, on which bettors can gamble on old horse races where all identifying information has been stripped. Per state law, Churchill Downs is allowed to operate 5,000 such machines across the commonwealth.

But they’ve been controversial elsewhere, with critics saying they suck money out of poor communities. The final council vote to approve the Rosie’s in Dumfries took months of wrangling before a majority agreed to permit the business in 2020. A Rosie’s press release said the Manassas Park location would create 150 jobs.

Sent out Friday morning, the release said the company had support from four of the city’s seven councilmembers: Laura Hampton, Darryl Moore, Yesy Amaya and Carrera. Despite recent efforts to grow the downtown tax base, economic development failures in decades-past have left the city with the highest real estate tax rate in the commonwealth and chronically underfunded city services. Only in recent years has the city government begun to climb out of an inordinately high debt burden. In its release, Churchill Downs says it can help to lower taxes by contributing new revenues.

Carrera said the company was looking at a 25,000-35,000-square-foot location, with 300-350 gaming machines. They’ll have until mid-August submit the requisite signatures to the Prince William County Circuit Court. If they do so, the yes-or-no question can go on the ballot in November.

“Manassas Park is exactly the kind of Virginia locality in which we look to operate. We want to bring good jobs, new tax revenue and a lot of fun to the city,” Churchill Downs Vice President for Gaming Operations Jack Sours said in the release. “We look forward to letting Manassas Park residents know more about our company, our facilities and all we can do to help make their community a better place to call home in the months ahead.”

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