Manassas Park 's 5,400 registered voters will decide Tuesday whether Northern Virginia should be home to a year-round, off-track betting parlor.
If that sounds familiar, there's a reason.
This isn't the first time Colonial Downs, Virginia's only parimutuel horse track, has asked city voters to allow off-track betting.
A similar proposal, sponsored by the New Kent County, Va., company, lost in 1996. Since 1992, Northern Virginia ballot initiatives to allow off-track betting have been defeated, usually by large margins, in at least six jurisdictions.
If voters approve the measure, Northern Virginia could have its first legalized gambling parlor up and running within a year, said Chris Bridge, director for referendum campaigns for Colonial Downs. The company's proposed 20,000-square-foot, sports bar-style betting parlor would be built in Manassas Park Shopping Center, on busy Route 28, company officials said.
The facility, which would be open to adults only, would include a restaurant, snack area, bar and VIP room with dozens of video screens displaying horse races from Colonial Downs and up to 25 other tracks across the country. Customers could place bets with tellers or just watch the races. The entry fee would be $2; the minimum wager, $2.
Colonial Downs estimates the parlor would generate more than $550,000 in city tax revenue a year on $90 million in bets annually. Those figures are more than double the highest earnings to date at any of Colonial Downs' other six parlors.
The parlor is an important economic development opportunity and one that should be carefully weighed by voters, said City Council member Noreen C. Slater, who petitioned to get the proposal on the ballot.
Opponents, including Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), political leaders from Prince William County and Manassas, churches and the Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance, see the parlor as a step backward.
The parlor would offer no benefit to Manassas and could tarnish the area's family friendly image, Manassas City Council members said. It would add to the area's traffic, promote behavior harmful to families and possibly increase crime, among other side effects, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors said in a resolution.
Manassas Park leaders responded angrily to their neighbors' positions last week, asking voters to make up their own minds and not be influenced by neighboring jurisdictions. The Manassas Park City Council and mayor have remained officially neutral on the proposal.
Wolf has said gambling is a turnoff to other businesses and is known for breaking up families and increasing crime. But Colonial Downs said there is no evidence of this.
"None of the specters they raise can be supported by evidence," Bridge said. "And, in fact, it's to the contrary, in the . . . communities [with betting parlors]. And it would seem that the local elected officials and elected officials [there] would support their claims if they were true, and the fact is they're not true."
George H. Adamson, Manassas Park's Republican candidate for treasurer, said that he would support the proposal 100 percent.
The city's most urgent problem is its lack of businesses, said Adamson, who is running uncontested in Tuesday's special election.
Manassas Park needs to "develop more income from businesses," said Adamson, 64. "What land we have left -- the developers just love to put more homes and town homes -- we need to resist and try to get our business base increased."
Adamson is the city's business tax auditor. After 21 years of financial management work for the Army, Air Force and the Department of Defense, Adamson signed on with Manassas Park five years ago.
If elected, Adamson said he would train staff in the treasurer's office, develop procedures for running the office and come up with a plan for investing the city's savings.