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RICHMOND, Va. - Could there really be two casinos in Hampton Roads?
Right now, debate continues on proposals to build casinos in Norfolk and Portsmouth and for now everything remains on the table.
The Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted to approve a bill dealing with casino legislation on Monday. The bill allows for the possibility of five casinos to be built in Virginia - in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, Danville and Richmond.
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It would require referendum elections in each of the cities to see if voters would support the idea. The state wouldn't be able to issue a license for a casino until July 2020.
In addition, it calls for the state to study the issue in order to make the best plan moving forward.
'It's not about being against gambling. It's about making sure we know where we're going so we can make the best deal and best protections for our citizens,' Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne said of the study.
“There are enough casinos that have failed to make us wonder whether Hampton Roads could sustain a casino in Norfolk and a casino in Portsmouth,” said Bob McNab, professor of economics at Old. Right now, it would take a would-be gambler in Hampton Roads about four hours to get to MGM National Harbor in Maryland and six hours to get to the Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina.
Hampton Roads supporters have been going back and forth to Richmond over the last two weeks to make their case. Lawmakers came up with a compromise over the weekend before Monday's vote. The legislation now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
'We need this to survive,' Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe told lawmakers on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe says they are now exploring state approval in addition to seeking a federal distinction to build a casino near Harbor Park in Norfolk.
'We intend to purse the federal process, but if the Commonwealth is ready to move forward with commercial gaming, we cannot just stand by and let others move forward without seeking that same opportunity,' said Chief Robert Gray.
“Rosie’s” can feature up to 700 historical horse racing machines
HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton City Council has given the go-ahead for a new gambling operation that is the closest thing to a casino that Hampton Roads has ever seen.
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Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to issue an operating permit for “Rosie’s Gaming Emporium,” an off-track betting and restaurant venue, planned for the Power Plant of Hampton Roads Entertainment District
The $40 million gaming venture, owned and eventually operated by the Colonial Downs Group, will encompass nearly 40,000-square-feet. While the majority of the space will come in the form of a new building, the facility will use all of the space formerly occupied by the NASCAR Sports Grille and Luckie’s Dueling Pianos.
It will be one of 5 “Rosie’s” locations to open up in the state and the first in Hampton Roads.
“We’re just excited to be part of the community,” said Aaron Gomes, Chief Operating Officer of the Colonial Downs Group, which is also currently working to reopen the Colonial Downs Raceway in New Kent.
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“I think that the customer that traditionally games at a casino will find the historical horse racing games very entertaining,” Gomes said.
The Hampton “Rosie’s” location could include up to 700 historical horse racing machines, which were just legalized last year in Virginia. They act and look similar to many slot machines seen in casinos around the country.
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“Every time you push a button here, the wheels will spin here, but all it is is betting on a combination of historical horse races,” Gomes said. “It will look and feel very similar.”
The names of the jockey’s, horses, date of the race and track are all erased, according to Gomes. Real states about the horse are displayed prior to the placement of a wager.
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You must be 18-years of age or older to play.
Nobody spoke in opposition to the plan and nobody appeared to two community meetings Colonial Downs said they held last year, according to the City Planning Department.
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The gaming venue will be open 8 a.m. – 2 a.m. seven days a week with a minimum of 7 security officers on property at all times.
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In addition, all 200 staff members will be trained to spot “problem gambling” according to Gomes.
Construction is expected to start in the coming weeks with an opening scheduled for early Fall.