Brenda Lewis is thrilled with the possibility of an off-track betting facility coming to Danville if voters approve pari-mutuel wagering in the city Nov. 5.
“I’m really excited about the possibility of having Rosie’s come to Danville,” Lewis, 71, said during an interview at Mediterranean Restaurant & Grill/ Primo’s Pizza on Tuesday afternoon.
Colonial Downs hopes to bring a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium to Danville, which it said would deliver about 150 to 200 jobs with an average of $47,000 in annual salary and benefits.
Rosie’s Gaming Emporium is an off-track betting facility with sites throughout Virginia.
If a facility were to open in Danville, it would include two types of betting — historic horse racing involving simulated, video game-like races in which players bet on a chosen horse and satellite betting on real-life horse races taking place throughout North America.
The official ballot question city voters will decide is: “Shall pari-mutuel wagering be permitted in the City of Danville at satellite facilities in accordance with Chapter 29 ... of Title 59.1 of the Code of Virginia?”
State law mandates localities that have not already approved pari-mutuel betting hold a voter referendum before such a wagering facility can operate in their community.
The city of Danville is not declaring one way or the other whether it supports allowing pari-mutuel betting.
“The city can’t have a position on that,” said City Manager Ken Larking. “It’s a political question and we’re supposed to stay neutral.”
Larking would not say whether he personally is in favor of pari-mutuel betting.
This week, the city released a fact sheet on its website saying “The City has not taken a position on the subject and does not offer a position here, but your leadership believes that all Danville voters will benefit from the below-outlined information.”
Though the city is not taking an official stance on, Mayor Alonzo Jones said he supports legalizing it.
The city’s school division needs the tax revenue for upgrading some of its schools, Jones said.
“We have four schools that architects have identified that need work,” he said. They are George Washington High School, Langston Focus School, Woodberry Elementary School and G.L.H. Johnson Elementary School.
“That’s over $100 million,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get some funding for the facility side of our schools.”
If the question passes in Danville, the city could get a facility where state-approved, regulated gaming machines would allow players to bet on a chosen horse based on win statistics.
The machines hold an archive of 90,000 previously-ran horse races and race-related statistics. Players could also allow the machine to choose the horse for them.
During an informational event held at Primo’s Tuesday afternoon, Colonial Downs Spokesman Mark Hubbard would not reveal possible sites in Danville that officials are considering for a Rosie’s location.
“We are still exploring possibilities,” Hubbard said.
Residents who spoke to the Danville Register & Bee at the event expressed enthusiastic support for bringing Rosie’s to Danville.
“It will bring jobs,” said 78-year-old Danville resident Roy Ferrell. “It will bring more people to Danville.”
Rosie’s would also generate more tax revenue, added Ferrell, who has been to Rosie’s in Vinton and Richmond.
For Rosa Robertson, a Rosie’s could mean a possible job for her if it includes a restaurant where she could work.
“We need something like that,” said Robertson, 62.
Sixty-four-year-old Roscoe Robertson agreed.
“I know people want some jobs,” he said.
However, one woman who refused to give her name expressed opposition to bringing off-track betting to Danville.
Resident Joanne Leopold said Danville needs a place like Rosie’s because there is not much to do in the city. Her son works in a casino in Rhode Island and a Rosie’s could provide him an opportunity here, she said.
“He wants to move here,” Leopold said.
An off-track wagering facility would bring a younger crowd to the city, she added.
“Let’s start making this a city that’s fun to be in,” Leopold said.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.