Colonial Downs Racetrack

Colonial Downs eyes Hampton’s Power Plant for off-track betting center

By: Tara BozickContact Reporter
Daily Press

The new Colonial Downs Group is planning a satellite wagering facility called Rosie’s in the Power Plant of Hampton Roads shopping area of Hampton, a spokesman confirmed.

“We’re very eager to get started and to get going,” Colonial Downs Group spokesman Mark Hubbard said.

The group submitted a use permit for the sites that were formerly occupied by Luckie’s and NASCAR Sports Grille, and it includes plans for more space in an expansion, said city spokeswoman Robin McCormick.

The group would like to open the $30 million Rosie’s Gaming Emporium at 1990-1996 Power Plant Parkway in Hampton in 2019, Hubbard said. The facility would employ about 200 workers, including part-timers, contributing $6.5 million in annual payroll and $2 million in annual tax revenues to the city, he added.

Colonial Downs: Off-Track Betting
Colonial Downs is looking into converting the closed NASCAR Sports Grille and Luckie’s bar into an off-track betting site

Wednesday October 17, 2018.
Colonial Downs could add up to 24,000 square feet to the existing 16,000 square feet, according to its application. In addition to a restaurant serving alcohol, the facility would offer remote betting for live simulcast horse racing along with historical horse racing, which uses machines that allow players to gamble on horse races that have already been run.

Historical horse race wagering legislation was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in April. Players know the odds on each horse, but the names of the horses and past races are hidden. Earlier in October, the Virginia Racing Commission set preliminary regulations that cap the number of historical horse racing wagering machines at 3,000 statewide.

The Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County is under new ownership after closing in 2014 amid a contract dispute between previous owner Jacobs Entertainment and a horsemen’s group over thoroughbred racing. The company’s off-track betting facilities closed the spring of 2015.

The previous owner of Colonial Downs operated an off-track betting facility at 1909 Commerce Drive at Interstate 64 and Pine Chapel Road, originally opening that facility in December 1997.

A group of investors — from Chicago-based Revolutionary Racing and other partners — bought Colonial Downs for more than $20 million in April. That acquisition did not include the Commerce Drive facility, Hubbard said.

The group is planning to open Rosie’s at its New Kent track, as well as bring back live horse racing there next year, Hubbard said. Colonial Downs has committed to at least 15 thoroughbred race dates in 2019, he said.

In addition to Hampton, the group is focused on three other off-track betting locations in Richmond, Chesapeake and Vinton, a small town near Roanoke.

Off-track betting returned to Chesapeake at Buckets Bar and Grill on North Battlefield Boulevard in late 2017.The nonprofit Virginia Equine Alliance has operated the off-track betting center there, along with two off-track betting centers in the Richmond area and another in Collinsville as a way to maintain the revenue in the state while Colonial Downs was closed. The alliance doesn’t own and manage the overall establishments.

By statute, a portion of the revenue from Virginia’s off-track betting facilities goes to race purses or prizes, a Virginia thoroughbred breeding incentive program and other horse industry partnerships or programs.

Larger purses and breeding incentives, along with overall activity around horse racing, can create a buzz that can attract more folks who will bring horses to the state to race, said President Debbie Easter of the Virginia Equine Alliance. She said the alliance supports the proposed Hampton facility.

“For us, it’s all positive. Hopefully, it’s positive for the locality, too,” Easter said. “This is going to generate income for an industry we wouldn’t be able to generate by ourselves.”

The use permit application is being reviewed and will go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing and then to City Council, McCormick said. City staff, including the economic development director, declined comment to allow the public hearing process to play out.

Colonial Downs estimates the average salary and benefits of Rosie’s employees is $42,000 a year, Hubbard said. Roughly 40 of the Hampton employees would be security personnel who will be trained as emergency medical technicians, he said.

“It’s just a great location overall,” Hubbard said. “This is going to be a top-notch, world-class, customer-focused entertainment venue.”

The developer and landlord of Power Plant, The Cordish Cos. based in Baltimore, did not respond to questions by Thursday.