It's a magnet for crime!

“Nothing to see here. We have this all under control.” At least that’s what Rosie’s Gaming Emporium (owned by Colonial Downs), a venue with historical horse racing machines that look and act like casino-style slot machines, is hoping you will believe.

In the past three months since it’s opened, police have been contacted 50 times about criminal and deviant behavior at Rosie’s New Kent location. And since its July 1 opening, the Richmond Police have been called to Rosie’s Gaming Emporium on Midlothian Turnpike 12 times in just the first ten days.

That’s more than one visit per day since the Richmond location opened!

The list of crimes includes: stolen wallets, assault in the parking lot, indecent exposure, harassment, intoxication, grand larceny, physical altercation, and trespassing.

Oh, but there is no need to worry according to Colonial Downs, because it has addressed safety concerns by hiring 40 security guards at the Richmond location alone, and has apparently increased its surveillance of the parking lot area.

That’s a relief. I feel so much better now.

However, while I am certain that Colonial Downs has acquired highly capable and qualified security personnel, the focus of their work is geared more towards protecting the patrons that are at the venue or preventing any disruptions to the gaming atmosphere. Let’s face it, if a casino or any other gaming establishment hires security guards to monitor the facility then their first level of interest is going to be to protect the “house.”

But we have to be somewhat fair and say that what’s happening in and around Rosie’s is not entirely their fault. If we are even a little honest with ourselves, we should admit that what’s happening at Rosie’s has less to do with their quality of security and more to do with the fact that casinos and casino-style gaming venues are a magnet for all kinds of crimes and deviant behavior.

The Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice have found significant links between gambling, crime, drug use and arrestees. According to one study, problem gamblers are 84% more likely to use hard drugs and 31% are more likely to binge drink. We also know that 3 out of 5 problem gamblers use criminal activity to fund these addictions. Gambling also leads to the human exploitation of various kinds, as problem gamblers are 260% more likely to hire a prostitute.

Those who enjoy frequenting places like Rosie’s might as well get used to the uptick in drugs, crime and prostitution, given that this is the pattern with almost all casinos. It only took the first ten days to prove true for Rosie’s.

Look no further than Atlantic City, NJ, which went from 50th to 1st in the nation in per capita crime after casino operations began in the 1970s.

Maybe this year Rosie’s should consider making a special charitable donation through its “Give Back” program to the Richmond Police and New Kent Sheriff’s Office for all of their time they will spend investigating crimes at its Richmond and New Kent locations.

A New Casino In New Kent County?

If it looks like a casino, feels like a casino, and plays like a casino, it’s probably because it is one, or might as well be. Last week, New Kent County, outside of Richmond, officially opened one such establishment.

According to the new “Rosie’s Gaming Emporium” at the Colonial Downs facility, which was sold to politicians last year (over our persistent arguments to the contrary) as ‘the only thing that can save live horse racing in Virginia’: “Our 600 [Historical Horse Racing (HHR)] Machines look, feel and play like the games you know and love!” (Click here to watch their video demonstration of one of these “HHR” machines.)

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If anyone was somehow fooled before into believing that all this had something to do with horses, the evidence is now undeniable: These are simply lined rows of slot machines in an atmosphere that by any ordinary description is a casino. And there are plans in the works to put the same Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in various locations across the state, including on Midlothian Turnpike in South Richmond, in Vinton, and in Hampton – all by the end of the year. 

As I told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The only winner of expanded gambling in Virginia is the gambling industry itself. The promised panacea of increased revenue to the state never seems to materialize, and the cost to the community of broken homes and families can be devastating.” 

For many reasons, it is clear that this effort has never primarily been about the cherished past-time of thoroughbred horse racing. That was evident when the industry stakeholders who influenced the Virginia Racing Commission stripped from its draft regulations any requirement for a minimum number of live race days at the tracks. Meanwhile, their stated intention is to change the regulations to allow for an unlimited number of these slot machines to be placed around the state (currently capped at 2,000). We need only to look at the model in other states to recognize it is merely casino gaming by another name, serving as a lucrative cash-cow for a select few business interests, all under the guise of “horse racing.” A classic example of “crony capitalism”, the government grants monopolies to a favored few, to the great detriment of countless others. 

Not only are these ‘miniature casinos’ destined to lead to the many social problems experienced everywhere these predatory establishments crop up, but as Senator Louise Lucas correctly noted after the bill authorizing it passed in 2018, it’s "the camel's nose under the tent," adding that she saw little difference between machines that allow historical horse race betting and slots. Senator Lucas, who has for many years been pushing for casinos in Virginia, is very pleased by all of this because of how it is opening the door to full-scale casinos throughout the state. (For a brief history of how this came to be in 2018, read our blog about it here.) 

While we have every intention to do all we can to resist that very real and imminent prospect, it’s hard not to say “We told you so.” 

In related news, it was revealed yesterday that in Kentucky, where this same scheme has been underway for a few years now, the “HHR” industry stakeholders paid for their own regulations to be written and for years had been paying for the testing services of their own machines with virtually no direct oversight from the horse racing commission. In other words, the gambling industry was in charge of ensuring that their own machines were not cheating people. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house. 

Sadly, that is not so different from the kind of incestuous relationships we have witnessed between the government and gambling industries here. When thinking about these issues, it is always helpful to keep in mind that gambling operations owe their success largely to creating the most effective ways to swindle people out of their money.