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Councilman hopeful off-track betting parlor will improve Richmond neighborhood

RICHMOND, Va. -- A new betting parlor is coming to South Richmond. The company that plans to reopen Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent will open Rosie's Gaming Emporium -- an off-track betting center -- where a now-shuttered Kmart sits along Midlothian Turnpike near Chippenham Parkway.

"The location is fantastic. You have easy access to the highway. Traffic concerns are not an issue. It's the perfect location for us," Aaron Gomes, the COO of Colonial Downs Group, said.

While gamblers will be able to bet on actual live horse races, the emporium's main draw will be 700 historical horse racing machines. They are basically video gambling machines where users bet on past horse races.

"It will feel like a casino. The experience will be like a casino. But it's not casino gaming. You're betting on historic horse racing. It's something that's new to Virginia," Gomes said.

Aaron Gomes

The Virginia General Assembly cleared the way for the machines back in January.

Safety concerns raised by some who live near the betting parlor were allayed to the satisfaction of Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones.

"They heard our concerns about crime. They heard our concerns about safety. If their patrons are not safe, they're not going to come. They're not going to spend $40 million to have people not come here," Jones said. "I'm convinced and comfortable with the fact that this will be a safe haven in this district."

Jones pointed out developers were installing new lights, more than 200 security cameras, and hiring dozens of security guards to patrol the property.

Once open, it's estimated the emporium will generate between $3 and $4 million of tax revenue annually for Richmond. Jones said he hoped Rosie's would succeed and help convince other businesses to open up in South Richmond.

"We have not seen this type of economic development deal in the 9th District in years. It just doesn't happen. We're not downtown, we're not Scott's Addition, we're not Manchester," he said. "This is a gamer changer for my corridor plan where we talked about making Hull Street like Broad Street, Midlothian Turnpike like Main Street. It's going to help us clean this area up."

Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones

Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones

Not everyone was as enthusiastic has Councilman Jones.

Levard Lassiter works in the area and shoots hoops on a court near the site.

After going through some rough patches in life, he said his faith in God has helped him turn his life around.

He was not convinced gambling was the best way to turn around South Richmond.

"I don't think it's a good thing. It might bring in money, but not all money is good money," he said. "We need something that's going to help people as far as their life."

Levard Lassiter

Gomes said South Richmond neighbors will start to notice the changes at the old Kmart site.

Work on a new parking lot, lighting, and bright red building facade will become more obvious ahead of the June 2019 opening date.