Castle Hill Gaming, a developer of slot machines, is investing $1.3 million to expand its corporate headquarters in Albemarle County.
The company will receive funding from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program to support the hiring and training of 106 new employees, and the county’s Economic Development Authority also will consider providing funding, approximately $200 per job, to the company at its next meeting.
“We are thrilled that this innovative, homegrown company has looked at the stakes and is all in on reinvesting and expanding in Albemarle County,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release.
“Software design and development is a booming industry with high-quality jobs, and Castle Hill Gaming’s exponential growth is slotted to advance the commonwealth’s leading position in this key sector. We look forward to the company’s next chapter and thank them for delivering a jackpot of more than 100 new jobs here in Virginia.”
Castle Hill Gaming designs class II and class III games, which are classified in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as the game of chance commonly known as bingo, and all forms of games that are not class I or class II, respectively. Class I games are social games for prizes of minimal value or gaming as part of tribal events.
“We’re now primarily focused on class II games, which are games that Native American tribes have a sovereign right to have — mostly games based on bingo,” Arthur Watson, CEO of Castle Hill Gaming, said at Friday’s announcement, attended by the governor, at the company’s headquarters on U.S. 29.
The company also creates historical horse racing games. Last year, Northam signed legislation into law that allows the machines in Virginia.
Watson grew up on a farm in Albemarle that raised horses and graduated from the University of Virginia.
“I would like to thank you, Governor Northam, for your leadership, specifically in bringing back live horse racing to the state of Virginia, supported by historical horse racing machines,” he said. “Racing is a cherished tradition in our state, the state that birthed Secretariat.”
A new kind of game, referred to as “skill games,” that look like slot machines have been popping up locally in gas stations, convenience stores and other retailers.
“We don’t make gray market games,” Watson said, when asked about the machines. “Although, they’re in the 7-Eleven next door.”
Castle Hill Gaming was founded in 2013 and many of its leaders previously worked for Kesmai, a computer game developer, and Video Gaming Technologies, a class II gaming company. Watson said the company currently has 55 employees, with about 25 of those in the Charlottesville area.
“We hope to also grow to several hundred people here in the county, just like our predecessors,” he said.
At the announcement, Northam said the key to success is workforce training, and pointed to Piedmont Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College and UVa.
“We’ve kind of gotten away from blue collar versus white collar, but these are ‘new collar’ jobs,” he said. “Our emphasis has really been on training individuals that can fill these jobs, and I commend you all for your efforts.”
The Virginia Jobs Investment Program provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change in order to support employee training activities.
Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said the state is trying to provide “a little incentive” to help make things happen.
“Government doesn’t create jobs but it can be the catalyst to help,” he said. “That’s what VJIP is doing, that’s what we’re trying to do at the state level.”
Ned Gallaway, chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, said that when the county’s economic development director, Roger Johnson, brought this opportunity to the board’s attention, the members “could have not been more pleased.”
“Our economic development strategic plan specifically prioritizes opportunities to support business expansion and retention,” Gallaway said. “Castle Hill Gaming is a local company that is growing and is choosing to do so right here in the community.”
In April, Charlottesville Tomorrow reported that a proposed apartment building in the area of the Shops at Stonefield also would include office space for Castle Hill Gaming.
That building is in a census tract that has been designated an opportunity zone, a federal tax incentive program that encourages investments in low-income urban and rural communities.