Churchill Downs encounters challenging election night in Virginia

Churchill Downs Fails to Expand Gambling Operations in Virginia

Churchill Downs, a multistate gaming and horse-racing company, faced disappointing results on Tuesday as voters in Virginia rejected two ballot measures that would have expanded the company’s gambling operations in the state. The company had invested millions into campaigns backing these measures, but ultimately their efforts were unsuccessful.

One of the referendums would have allowed for horse racing-themed slot machines in Manassas Park, which was a necessary step for Churchill Downs to open its eighth Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Virginia. The other measure sought approval for the construction of a Richmond casino, to be jointly owned by Churchill Downs and media conglomerate Urban One.

In support of these measures, Churchill Downs contributed over $5.7 million to Virginia campaigns, with a majority of the funds going to the Richmond Wins, Vote Yes PAC advocating for the Richmond casino. CEO Bill Carstanjen had expressed the company’s belief in the potential of the Richmond market, which influenced their significant investment in the campaign.

However, the outcome was not in favor of Churchill Downs. Both measures were decisively defeated, with almost 59% of Manassas Park voters rejecting the Rosie’s referendum and nearly 62% of Richmond voters nixing the casino project. This stark contrast to the previous referendum in 2021 indicated a shift in public opinion regarding gambling expansion in the state.

This outcome has prompted Del. Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria, to consider the need to slow down the rapid expansion of gambling in Virginia. He emphasized the absence of a regulatory body overseeing all gambling activities and proposed a bill that would require a three-year waiting period if a casino proposal is rejected by voters.

Krizek’s proposal aims to align the regulations for casinos with those for horse racing machines, where a limit is placed on how frequently referendums can be introduced to voters. Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, supported this proposition and emphasized the importance of respecting the voters’ decisions.

Virginia has seen a significant shift in its gambling regulations in recent years, but the outcome of the recent referendums has prompted lawmakers to reevaluate the expansion of gambling in the state. Krizek highlighted the oversight in the existing casino law and called for a more measured approach in determining the future of gambling operations in the state.

The resounding rejection of these ballot measures has sparked discussions about the need for a more cautious and regulated approach to gambling expansion in Virginia. These developments will likely have a lasting impact on the future of gambling in the state.