Churchill Downs Inc. To Acquire Colonial Downs, Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums

Written By Dann Stupp on February 22, 2022
Churchill Downs Inc.

With a multi-billion-dollar deal, Churchill Downs Inc. will soon be the major player in Virginia horse racing, as well as historical horse racing.

Officials today announced Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) has agreed to “acquire substantially all of the assets” of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment LLC (P2E) for just under $2.5 billion.

PPE owns and operates Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in VA.

While the blockbuster deal will mostly impact Virginia, it will also include properties in Iowa and New York.

Assuming all the needed parties, including gaming and racing commissions, sign off on the deal, it’s expected to close by the end of 2022.

Churchill Downs Inc. big on HHR

With the announced deal, CDI will become the owner of Colonial Downs. The Thoroughbred racing facility, which is home to the famed Virginia Derby, is located in New Kent.

The famed track opened in 1997 and became a major East Coast attraction for horseplayers. But structured racing disappeared from 2015-2018 as the track sat vacant due to various disputes.

However, the summer racing schedule returned in 2019. That’s when, thanks to historical horse racing (HHR) legalization, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) reopened the track, as well as Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, which offer slot machine-like HHR games.

HHR parlors are now located in the following Virginia cities:

  • Collinsville
  • Dumfries
  • Emporia (planned for future)
  • Hampton
  • New Kent
  • Richmond
  • Vinton

As Churchill Downs Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bill Carstanjen stated of the deal:

“P2E has done an exceptional job developing and managing this collection of assets, which we are very excited to acquire and plan to strategically grow in the years ahead.”

Combined, the Rosie’s locations in Virginia have about 2,700 HHR machines. HHR machines don’t actually feature much in the way of actual horse racing. However, the industry has embraced them to try to stave off extinction as interest in horse racing interest wanes, especially during the pandemic.

In addition to the existing Rosie’s locations, CDI will have the opportunity to develop up to five new Rosie’s locations.

Don’t forget about The Rose and Richmond casino

Chuchill Downs Inc. is an online wagering and gaming entertainment company. It’s perhaps best known for its flagship event, the iconic Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Assets also include TwinSpires, an online wagering platform for horse racing.

As part of the PPE transaction, CDI will also acquire:

  • del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo, New York (all assets)
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Iowa (casino operations)

But the deal also involves another (future) property in Virginia: the $400 million The Rose gaming resort in Prince William County. Also dubbed the “Dumfries Project,” The Rose will be a super-sized gaming facility with HHR gaming, restaurants, entertainment, green spaces and other attractions. Officials expect it to open in 2023.

CDI is also assuming P2E’s partnership with the Maryland-based media conglomerate Urban One. Last year, Urban One and PPE failed to persuade Richmond voters to approve the $565 million ONE Casino + Resort in the Virginia capital.

However, the casino referendum may get a second shot during the 2022 election. If it does ultimately pass, CDI will be involved on the gaming side of the Richmond casino, which will offer traditional (non-HHR) games such as blackjack, roulette, poker and slot machines.

Photo by AP / Jeff Roberson
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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