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2019-4-17

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Horse Racing Returns as Gaming Parlors Open in Virginia

By Emma Gauthier, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Horses soon will race again at Colonial Downs, and Virginians will be able to bet on them and play slots-style machines in a casino-like setting at four other locations across the commonwealth.

The Colonial Downs Group will resume horse racing at its track in New Kent County and offer off-track betting at the other sites under the brand Rosie’s Gaming Emporium.

The New Kent County racetrack, between Richmond and Williamsburg, closed in 2014. Colonial Downs plans to resume horse racing there in August.

But before then, Virginians will have a chance to gamble -- on historical horse racing gaming machines at the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations. The slots-style machines allow players to bet on horses from past races and also bet against other opponents.

The Colonial Downs Group is set to open a Rosie’s at the New Kent County track on April 23. The company will also open gaming parlors in Richmond, Hampton, Chesapeake and the Roanoke County town of Vinton by the end of 2019.

Rosie’s will generate $25 million in state taxes annually and create 800 jobs statewide, according to Colonial Downs spokesman Mark Hubbard. The Richmond location will employ about 150 people and open in June.

Mayor Levar Stoney has endorsed the venture, which will be in South-Central Richmond.

“We’ve had tremendous support from Mayor Stoney and city leaders,” Hubbard said. “The community in the 9th District is excited about us opening soon, and we’re very excited about bringing a new form of entertainment and fun to Richmond.”

The five Rosie’s facilities will include a total of 3,000 historical horse racing gaming machines. The bets feed into a collective pool that players can win, with various purses.

“The revenues that we generate through the machines will help fund purses at the race track and a portion of the revenues will go to the horse racing industry,” Hubbard said.

The collective purse falls under a type of gambling known as pari-mutuel betting. This type of gaming machine was created in Kentucky to revitalize the horse industry and generate revenue year-round, Hubbard said.

Using the machines, players select three horses (the winners of historical horse races), place a bet and then watch an animated re-enactment of the horses competing. The company calls the machines a “competitive substitute for traditional casino style games.”

The launch of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium coincides with a push in the General Assembly to allow casinos in the commonwealth.

On March 21, Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law a bill that may eventually loosen the reins on casino gambling. SB 1126, sponsored by Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, calls for a study of casino gaming in the state, which must be completed by Dec. 1.

Going forward, localities would be required to pass a referendum to allow casino gaming. The Virginia Lottery Board would regulate the casinos. The board cannot issue any gaming licenses before July 1, 2020.

The new law also gives the Virginia Racing Commission control of racing with pari-mutuel wagering.

The Colonial Downs Group will participate in the study, Hubbard said.

Many Virginians are excited by the idea of casino gambling, but some organizations are worried about a negative impact on communities.

The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling believes that more people will develop gambling-related problems when given more opportunities to gamble.

“As our legislators seek to expand gambling in Virginia, they need to do so responsibly by first assessing the risks and rewards, which hopefully the gambling study the governor is calling for will in part provide, and also setting up safeguards to protect the public from harm,” said the council’s president, Carolyn Hawley.

The Family Foundation, a nonprofit Christian organization, has similiar reservations and also believes that crime increases near casinos. The Colonial Downs Group believes its gaming centers will improve quality of life and possibly decrease crime.

The Rosie’s in Richmond will replace a vacant Kmart lot off Midlothian Turnpike near Chippenham Parkway. Police regularly patrol the area because of crime, Hubbard said.

“We’re going to add a lot of lighting, surveillance and people coming and going, which will deter criminals,” Hubbard said. “When you bring a fun, lively, very well-lit and secure entertainment facility, that disperses crime.”

Dr. Thomas Guirkin Is VCU Health CMH’s New VP Of Medical Affairs

Good ole’ southern charm is easily recognized, but not easily duplicated. The new Vice President of Medical Affairs at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital recognized that charm at CMH and knew he had found a home.

“I was impressed by the sense of community I found here,” Tom Guirkin, Jr. MD, said about him landing in Southside Virginia.

A Richmond native, Dr. Guirkin has spent the past 12 years preparing for his role at VP of MA at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

"I had been moving from position to position, slowly building my fund of knowledge in order to promote public health. That being said, I really am a small town person,” “I found CMH to be a very good fit for me in that respect.” Over the past 12 years, I have worked in some organizations that were not necessarily the most collaborative of workplaces. I am of the opinion that you can be cordial and collaborative at work and accomplish your goals. I see that type of atmosphere at CMH.”

Scott Burnette, CEO of CMH said, “We conducted a national search and had several very qualified candidates.  We were fortunate to be able to recruit Dr. Guirkin to our team.  His training and experience will be a great asset as we continue our efforts to grow services and expand our abilities to treat more patients close to home.”

Dr. Guirkin explained his job at CMH as being not just an administrator or physician but also a resource for the community as a whole.

“I want to be working with doctors, nurses, finance, the lab – pretty much everyone to make things happen, to better meet the needs of our patients and their families, but also help meet the needs of the employees here at CMH,” he said.

Dr. Guirkin has an impressive resume and deep Virginia ties. He is a 1999 Summa Cum Laude graduate of VCU with a major in biology and a focus in chemistry. He then attended the Medical College of Virginia, graduating in 2003. From 2003 through 2006, Dr. Guirkin was at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. where he completed his internship and residency.

“I loved D.C.,” he said of his time at Georgetown and his first job after residency at Mount Vernon Internal Medicine in Alexandria, VA.

After Mount Vernon Internal Medicine, Dr. Guirkin headed back to Richmond where he provided inpatient medical services at Saint Mary’s, a Bon Secour Hospital on a full time basis. While doing his primary practice in the hospital, he continued to maintain his outpatient skills by practicing urgent care and primary care services at Patient First. While at Saint Mary’s, he had his first foray into the business, quality and management sides of medicine when he worked at Intercede Health as an order optimizer consultant.

“I had played with the thought during medical school about getting a Master’s Degree in Business Administration,” he said. “I got my first exposure to process improvement and strategic leadership at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond and decided to go ahead and pursue my MBA.”

While he was attending business school, Dr. Guirkin worked for James River Hospitalist Group in Richmond.

“That was the start of working seven days a week for two straight years,” he said. “Except for a couple of holidays off, I was working all day, every day between my job and business school.” Dr. Guirkin was providing hospitalist support for Chippenham and Johnston-Willis while attending graduate school at VCU.

Following his graduation from business school, Dr. Guirkin began to look for a position that allowed him to utilize all of his expertise. He was offered two different administrative positions but declined these due to their not allowing him to continue practicing medicine. It was at this time he was introduced to the Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This finally afforded him the opportunity to grow as a manager yet continue to practice medicine.

“Saint Francis is a large health system with six hospitals in the Tulsa metro region and I was overseeing a large 60 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) hospitalist group and during my time there it grew to 85 FTEs. It was there I honed my management skills.  I was mentored by a fantastic doctor – Mark Frost, Senior Vice President on many aspects of quality management.”

The original plan was for Dr. Guirkin to eventually move into a more senior role, but providence had other ideas, he said. “I got a chance email from VCU and decided to take a look,” he said. “And it was exactly what I was looking for. I really appreciate the people here and it’s just a great fit for us. I was impressed that CMH maintained its identity during the affiliation with VCU Health. All the names on all the rooms showed me that this was the type of place I wanted to be.”

CMH ran a capital campaign where community members could donate and have naming rights to various rooms in the new hospital and C.A.R.E. Building.

“I will be seeing patients on a limited basis here at CMH,” he said. “Not exactly sure at this point what that looks like, but it was important to me to maintain that aspect of care.”

He also wants to find unique ways to bring medical care to the communities CMH services.

“I’m big on preventive medicine and wanting to make sure everyone has access to care,” he said.

Dr. Guirkin wanted to be closer to his parents who still reside in Richmond.

Dr. Guirkin and spouse Brian Sharp have two four-legged children a pug name Samantha and a Belgium Mallonois named Tucker. In his spare time, he enjoys running, reading and working in the yard.

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