Less than two months after opening its first off-track betting parlor in Northern Virginia, the owners of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium are unveiling much bigger plans for Dumfries and Prince William County.
“The Rose,” a $389 million "gaming and entertainment destination,” featuring a 200-room hotel, eight restaurants and 50,000 square feet of gaming space, is being pitched for the current site of the Potomac Landfill, located off Interstate 95 and Va. 234.
As part of the development, the Colonial Downs Group is promising to build a 79-acre park on top of the closed landfill. The project would close the landfill as soon as this summer – about 11 years ahead of its currently scheduled closure in 2032.
In an interview Monday morning, Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood likened the proposal to a dream come true for the Town of Dumfries.
“It’s like when you dream of getting elected and you have a vision of something. This is part of what I never could have imagined for this town,” Wood said.
“The landfill has been an eyesore for this community … and this is an opportunity to go to the community and say, not only is a developer going to get rid of the landfill … but we’re going to bring you something you can use, and your family can use, and … bring some great entertainment options.”
Wood said he’s most excited about the proposal’s promise to bring not only a larger gaming facility to Dumfries but also multiple restaurants, a 1,500-seat theater and meeting space along with a badly needed park and green space.
The park is proposed to include an undisclosed number of outdoor playing fields, an amphi-theater and trails. Wood said closing the landfill and creating the park is part of the $389 million cost of the project. It’s not yet clear, however, whether the park would remain part of the Colonial Downs property or be handed over to the Town of Dumfries or Prince William County. Wood said many of those details have not yet been discussed or resolved.
Potential annual tax revenue: $48 million
The Rose could also create 640 new jobs and generate a potential $48 million in annual tax revenue for Virginia, Prince William County and the Town of Dumfries, according to an independent economic impact report authored by Terry Clower of George Mason University.
Clower, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and director of its Center for Regional Analysis, says The Rose has the potential to bring dollars Virginians spend at the MGM Grand casino in Maryland back to the commonwealth.
The resort will “allow Virginia to recapture a sizable share of the entertainment spending that currently goes to Maryland venues,” according to the report, which Colonial Downs provided to the Town of Dumfries.
Clower’s report projects that the Commonwealth of Virginia would reap $30.5 million in new tax revenue annually from the project, while the Town of Dumfries would collect $10.9 million and Prince William County, $6.7 million, according to a presentation included in the Dumfries Town Council’s Feb. 16 agenda.
This week’s town council meeting, which will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, will be the first time the project will be discussed publicly.
Wood added that the town and the county have long needed a convention center type space to host events. And while The Rose wouldn’t exactly fit that bill, it would offer a venue for live entertainment, meetings and some private events that have typically had to be hosted outside the county, Wood said.
Timeline suggests January 2023 opening
The project will need to receive a “conditional-use permit” from the Dumfries Town Council under a process similar to a special-use permit at the county level. The process will allow town planners and officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation and Prince William County to hash out issues such as access the site and the placement of the main building, parking garage and park facilities.
A timeline proposed by Colonial Downs suggests the project could go to the Town of Dumfries Planning Commission in April and then to the town council for final consideration in May.
If the conditional use permit is approved, construction to both close the landfill and build the gaming facility could begin in August 2021, with an opening date set for January 2023.
If the Dumfries Town Council approves a conditional use permit for The Rose, Colonial Downs would use the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium that opened in January as a “workforce development center,” according to the presentation to the town council.
All of the historical horse race betting machines at the existing Rosie's Gaming Emporium would be moved to the new facility, and the Triangle Shopping Center site would cease to be a gaming site, Mark Hubbard, spokesman for Colonial Downs, said Monday.
Wood noted that the buildings are now proposed for 12 acres at the edge of the landfill property but not on the landfill itself. The park would be built atop the landfill.
The complex will front I-95 and be built directly behind the Grayson Village Mobile Home Park. The planned parking garage has been placed to separate the mobile home park from the main building. No mobile homes would be lost to the new development, Wood said.
Visitors would access the site from Va. 234, Village Parkway and Greentree Lane, the current route to the landfill. Greentree Lane would have two lanes going into the site and one lane coming out, Wood said.
Wood said his only concerns about the project at this point are “the unknowns,” or the potential problems the project might bring to the town and the surrounding areas.
“I don’t know what the unknowns are,” Wood said, adding that he is looking forward to further discussions with Colonial Downs.
2020 ‘casino bill’ paved the way for ‘The Rose’
When Dumfries voters approved a ballot referendum allowing off-track betting and historical horse race betting machines in Dumfries back in November 2019, they were told the facility could have no more than 150 betting machines. The number was derived from a then-Virginia law that limited the number of betting machines based on the hosting locality’s population.
That law changed however when the Virginia General Assembly passed the state’s casino bill in 2020. The new law paved the way for a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium with up to 1,800 machines -- 12 times the initial 150 – as part of a compromise. The law aimed to mitigate competition the state’s new casinos would pose to the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium off-track betting parlors. So far, the Colonial Downs Group is the only entity licensed to operate parimutuel betting parlors in Virginia.
Talk of a larger Rosie’s Emporium potentially sited at the Potomac Landfill in Dumfries began last year when Virginia lawmakers were debating the new casino law. At the time, both Del. Luke Torian, D-52nd, and state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, expressed support for the idea.
But Hubbard, the Colonial Downs Group spokesman, said any plan for a larger Rosie’s facility in Dumfries would be “years away.”
“Our focus is opening the Rosie’s in Triangle shopping center,” Hubbard said in March 2020. “We can consider other things down the road.”
Under the state’s new casino law, up to five casinos will be allowed in Virginia cities. Voters in four cities – Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth -- have already approved a casino referendum necessary for a locality to host a casino.
The Virginia General Assembly has approved a fifth casino in Richmond, but the city’s voters have yet to approve a referendum that would allow it. The Colonial Downs Group, which already operates a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, is expected to submit a proposal to operate that casino in Richmond, but Hubbard declined to confirm those plans Monday.
The Rose, if approved, will offer only historical horse race betting machines like those currently available at the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, which opened in the Triangle Shopping Plaza in January, Hubbard said.
The Rose is not authorized for casino games like those that will be available in the state’s new casinos, which are expected to open in 2022 and 2023.
Hubbard declined to say whether Colonial Downs would eventually pursue casino gaming in Dumfries, saying only that doing so would require both a new state law and approval by Dumfries voters.
Hubbard also declined to disclose details about the Colonial Downs Group’s negotiations with the Potomac Landfill.
“We really want the opportunity to share the details with the [Dumfries] Town Council first,” he said.
Colonial Downs is planning its first public information town hall on The Rose on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The event will be held virtually, and information about how to participate is forthcoming, Hubbard said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to note that the Potomac Landfill is slated to close by 2032, not 2030.
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