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Five Virginia localities to move on with casino projects

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Residents in five “economically distressed” localities in Virginia are looking forward to new casino gambling opportunities as soon as regulatory processes are overcome.  Local governments in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond believe that new brick-and-mortar casino development will boost their economies.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly gave these localities permission to move forward with casino projects which they had in the pipeline.

Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of casino development in local referendums last November.  Initial casino regulations are already in effect  but bureaucracy is still causing major obstacles.

Richmond’s South Side is slightly behind in the game, and voters will have their say in the referendums of November 2021.

Lengthy regulatory process

But new casinos won’t be coming to the four approved localities overnight. Developers still have to go through a lengthy regulatory process which isn’t appealing to operators at the moment.

So, while casinos have the potential to boost local economies, developers aren’t rushing to apply for permission to do so… for now.

Virginia’s Lottery Executive Director, Kevin Hall, was quoted in ABC’s 8 News saying: “Casino gaming probably won’t be available in any city in Virginia any earlier than spring or summer of next year. These are major developments that have a really long runway between approval, licensing, construction and opening.”

HB4 legalized the state for five casinos in cities that met strict criteria. Among them cities had to have a poverty rate of 20% or higher, unemployment rates of 4% or higher, a population that has decreased by 20% or more in the past year and 40% of the city real estate is exempt from tax.

Danville hopes to capitalize on out of state traffic since it’s situated on the border with North Carolina, and has teamed with Caesars Entertainment to see the plans materialize when it receives approval.

Norfolk has the advantage of being located on the coast and planners are eyeing the Elizabeth River near Harbor Park as a potential location for a casino.

Portsmouth city officials have signed a deal with Rush City Gaming to build a casino on the western branch of the Elizabeth River.

So what’s happening in Richmond?

As things go, it seems that authorities in the capital are likely to approve a casino project very soon.

In May this year, One Casino + Resort became the city’s choice after a long bidding session.

An evaluation committee chose the One Casino and Resort and its proposed site (on Wamlsley Boulevard in South Richmond). They beat another five applicants.

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” said Mayor Levar Stoney who support the idea of opening a casino as part of the solution to tackle unemployment in Richmond and bring in some much-needed gambling dollars to the city and state. “The project will create over 1,000 good-paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond. I applaud the work of the Evaluation Panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”

If the city council approves the operator and the casino’s intended location, it will then go before voters in the November 2021 referendum. But not before it goes before the Lottery Board for pre-certification.

Over 1,300 people will be employed in the new casino, and the city is expected to see around $560 million in tax revenue over the course of 10 years.

If the casino receives all the necessary approvals, the resort could open by 2023.

Who is behind the one casino and resort?

An entity called Urban ONE proposed the new casino in partnership with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. The latter has many years of experience in the US gambling industry and owns and operates several casinos.

Urban ONE’s CEO, Alfred Liggens expressed that the group was “thrilled” to have been chosen by the evaluation committee. He promised that Richmond would benefit from the “best location” and the “best team” as Urban ONE brings “world-class entertainment” to Southside.

He also promised good paying jobs with profit-sharing for local employees, pathways to successful careers for the right people and new tax revenues that have the potential to improve the city’s schools and community programs.

Story by Chloe Wilson


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