Colonial Downs’ revived betting parlor in Vinton has come out of the gate strong — besting its own financial projections.
In just under three months, the revamped destination has handled more than $57 million in wagers placed just on its new historical horse racing machines.
The machines, which look and play like slots, were considered key to reopening Colonial Downs and financing the return of live thoroughbred horse racing in Virginia.
Live racing made its comeback this month with a 15-day series now underway at the flagship track in New Kent County.
The events are supported in part with the money brought in by a network of satellite betting parlors, dubbed Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, including the location in Vinton.
The Vinton Rosie’s marked its grand opening on May 9. Between May and July, guests looking to try their luck played a total of about $57.2 million on the outlet’s assortment of 150 historical horse racing machines, according to reports posted by the state racing commission.
“It’s exceeded our expectations,” said Ernie Dellaverson, general manager of the Vinton site. “We’re very happy with the numbers.”
The location, the only outlet in the western side of Virginia, has pulled from a wide market, including slices of adjoining states, Dellaverson said.
“It’s reaching,” he said. “People have been receiving us well.”
The reported figures reflect the total amount wagered, not the net profit generated for the operation. Much of the money ends up funneled back into prizes.
In addition, 1.25 % of the bets placed are collected for state and local taxes. Vinton is paid a 0.25 % share for local taxes.
In the run-up to the parlor’s opening, the town, based on projections from Rosie’s, estimated the wagering tax could yield as much as $390,000 per year for its coffers.
By the end of July alone, historical horse racing had produced just over $143,000, according to state figures.
“Every month, I think their revenue has exceeded expectations,” said Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, adding the town has plans to put that funding to work.
The town, wanting to be cautious in its handling of a new revenue source, plans to bank its wagering tax payments and put the money toward major capital projects looming on the horizon.
Grose said that was the most sensible course, especially at a time when the municipality is trying to get a better handle on a backlog of needs it was left facing after the Great Recession.
“We have some aging infrastructure that we need to invest in in the very near future,” he said.
In addition to the budget boost, Grose said he’s been pleased with the way Rosie’s has handled itself in the community. The location runs smoothly by all accounts, he said, and the business has involved itself in local events.
Last month, it came before the town council seeking permission to host outdoor music and announcements as part of a special prize giveaway. Neighbors also came with concerns about the proposed hours of the nighttime event.
A public hearing morphed into more of a conversation between the two camps and a compromise was struck.
“It was actually quite uplifting to see how that went,” Grose said. “Both sides were very reasonable, and it worked out.”
“I think they’ve fit well into our community,” he said of Rosie’s. “I’m excited to see their future.”
Vinton’s is the smallest of the three Rosie’s locations opened to date. The others are in New Kent County and Richmond.
Another location has been slated to open in Hampton Roads this fall, and an effort is underway to organize a voter referendum in Danville to determine if it can be expanded there.
Colonial Downs relaunched under new ownership this year after shuttering operations in 2014 amid a contract disagreement between the prior management and the state horsemen’s association.
The resurrected outfit purchased the same site in Vinton that Colonial Downs previously operated for about a decade.
The business still offers wagering on live race events but the historical horse racing machines were expected to eclipse that in popularity.
In July, live racing accounted for $3.3 million in betting at all Rosie’s outlets, compared to nearly $142.8 million for historical horse racing machines, according to a financial overview from Colonial Downs.
The machines look similar to slot machines but their outcomes are determined by an archive of pre-recorded horse racing results.
Winnings also are determined by the same pari-mutuel betting pool system used in live racing.
This is a form of wagering new to Virginia. Historical horse racing machines have been used in other states but the commonwealth only recently approved their use to facilitate the reopening of live racing at the Colonial Downs track.