Churchill Downs Placing Big Bets on Virginia After Richmond Setback

On November 8, 2023, Churchill Downs suffered a loss after Richmond voters rejected a $562 million project proposed by the company and media conglomerate Urban One. The project, known as the Richmond Grand Resort & Casino, was rejected by a 58%-42% tally, with divisive messaging from Urban One founder Cathy Hughes potentially contributing to the unfavorable outcome. Despite significant spending on the casino campaign, voters in the Virginia capital declined the authorization for a Las Vegas-style casino resort for the second time in three years.

However, Churchill Downs is still moving forward with a gaming resort in Dumfries, Virginia, known as The Rose. The $372 million investment will include a 305-room luxury hotel, 15,000 square feet of convention space, a 1,500-seat theater, and a 50,000-square-foot casino featuring 1,100 Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines. HHR gaming was legalized in Virginia in 2018 to support the state’s horse racing industry and the Colonial Downs Racetrack.

Churchill’s ownership of the exclusive rights to HHR games in Virginia gained value after the state’s Supreme Court ruled skill games to be illegal. With The Rose slated to be the closest gaming facility serving Northern Virginia, one of the wealthiest regions in the US, it is set to establish a regional gaming monopoly.

In addition to their efforts in Richmond, Churchill Downs faced another setback on Election Day, as voters in Manassas Park rejected a local referendum that would have permitted the opening of a new Rosie’s Gaming Emporium location in the town. However, the company is committed to proceeding with P2E’s plan to build the HHR resort in Dumfries, near Interstate 95, adjacent to a landfill being transformed into a public park.

Overall, despite the defeat in Richmond, Churchill’s focus on developing The Rose shows the company’s intention to continue expanding its gaming operations in Virginia, particularly in light of the region’s gaming potential and the value of establishing a regional gaming monopoly.