Pari-mutuel betting is on the Nov. 2 ballot in Emporia, as voters decide if Rosie’s Gaming Emporium sets roots in the City. On Tuesday, local businessman Hermie Sadler told members of the Emporia City Council he isn’t pleased with the handling of the effort to bring Rosie’s to the municipality.
“I’ve read all the newspaper clippings about what a great community project it’s going to be and how the City Council is 100% supportive of it,” Sadler said. “When some people ask me about it, they get confused when I say I’m not completely supportive of it.”
Sadler owns stores that before July 1 had skill games that customers could play. The Virginia General Assembly banned skill games. Sadler estimated the ban would cost his business approximately $750,000 annually. He is not against Rosie’s coming to Emporia. The Emporia entrepreneur wants a level free market playing field.
In June, Sadler and his attorney Sen. Bill Stanley R-20 filed a suit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring. The lawsuit claims the skill game ban is unconstitutional and unfair. He said the casino groups behind the skill-game ban are seeking a monopoly on a business that he and others had been operating for more than 20 years.
“There are five proposed casinos coming to Virginia,” Sadler said. “Rosie’s is expanding. Rosie’s now gets to come to Emporia and have a monopoly on that business. They’re taking a part of our business that we had 20—plus years and gift wrapping it and giving it to some people from out of town who never voted for ya’ll, and they come here with a monopoly on that business.”
City Council members Woody Harris and Yolanda Hines did not dispute many of the points brought to them by Sadler. Harris told Sadler he hopes his lawsuit against the Commonwealth is successful.
“I don’t disagree with the vast majority of what you said,” Harris said. “There is something wrong when government anytime is picking winners and losers in the free market concept society. I think the environment is such that it can certainly coordinate both of them. But I don’t think it’s the company that lobbied for this or where the blame deserves to fall. I think it’s with the government that voted to allow that to happen.”
Hines said she understands Sadler’s concerns, but her constituents voted for her and other members of the City’s governing body to bring better housing, jobs, and entertainment to the municipality. She also said the voters would decide whether or not Rosie’s comes to Emporia.
“We don’t have any control over Richmond, but what we do is support all business that comes to the area,” she said. “We understand your concerns. But, I know I supported Rosie’s because of the jobs they are bringing to the community, and $15 an hour is a lot for someone who is currently making $9.75 an hour, and with the benefits.”
Sadler emphasized he does not have a problem with Rosie’s coming to Emporia. He wants it done under a level playing field with the free-market competition.
“I just want you to think about what you are doing to businesses like ours that have been here for 75-plus years investing in this community, payroll, paying taxes — all of it,” he said. “And we mean so little that 100% of City Council thinks it’s a great idea to bring these people from out of town under these circumstances.”
If Sadler’s lawsuit is successful in overturning Virginia’s ban on skill games, the decision on playing skill games moves from leaders in Richmond to individuals.