Rivers Casino Portsmouth and Norfolk tribal casino plans also passed their referendums

Hard Rock, Caesars casino projects approved by Virginia cities' voters

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort planned for the former Bristol Mall property is expected to create at least 1,070 jobs and generate $130 million in revenue and $35 million in taxes annually.
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Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort planned for the former Bristol Mall was approved by over 72% of the voters during Tuesday's election. Over 68% of Danville in-person voters greenlighted the $400 M Caesars casino resort for the city. Rush Street Gaming's casino plan in Portsmouth and Pamunkey Indian Tribe's project in Norfolk received over 60% of affirmative votes. The operators must now submit gaming license applications to the Virginia Lottery Board.

Voters in the Virginia cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth overwhelmingly supported local referendums allowing four commercial casinos to be built in their cities, with results declared two hours after polls closed. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, citizens in the four cities voted close to two to one in favor of casinos during the Nov. 3 election.

Bristol Virginia voters on Tuesday approved the proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort planned for the former Bristol Mall property by 72.37%, as reported by Virginia Business. The $400 million project received 5,547 affirmative votes compared to 2,221 votes against. All votes are unofficial until city election officials complete their final canvass, which is planned for noon Friday.

Hard Rock International previously said it expects to submit its gaming license application to the Virginia Lottery Board once the state completes the development of regulations that will govern casinos. The property is expected to create at least 1,070 jobs and generate $130 million in revenue and $35 million in taxes annually. According to the investors themselves, the project will create 2,000 jobs and bring more than 4 million people to the region, generating $16-$21 million in annual tax revenue for the city.

Caesars in Danville

With all 17 precincts reporting, 68.67% of Danville in-person voters approved the $400 million Caesars Entertainment casino resort. “Caesars Entertainment thanks the voters of Danville for their support of the referendum that will bring Caesars Virginia to Danville,” Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars, said in a statement Tuesday night. “We look forward to fulfilling the trust the voters have placed in us by bringing 1,300 good-paying jobs, tourism dollars and economic development to the city, and we are incredibly excited to begin construction.”

Caesars plans to build the casino and accompanying resort in the Schoolfield neighborhood, a deal that would include a $20 million one-time payment to the city, including $5 million for the property. According to a December 2019 study by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), the Danville casino would generate at least $190 million in direct revenue and $51 million in tax revenue each year by 2025. Danville was the only one of the four cities voting on casinos this year that implemented a competitive bidding process to select a preferred casino operator.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth

In Portsmouth, with 17 of 32 in-person precincts reporting, 66.62% of voters voted in favor of the casino referendum. Portsmouth’s $300 million casino resort, proposed by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming LLC, is expected to generate $167 million in annual revenue, 1,380 permanent jobs and $45 million in annual gaming taxes, the JLARC report says. The company also pledged to solicit 5% of the equity or $5 million, whichever is greater, from local minority-owned businesses or private, accredited investors who are minorities.

“Rush Street Gaming is excited that Portsmouth residents have approved the casino gaming referendum,” the company said in a statement Tuesday night. “Rivers Casino Portsmouth will be a proud community partner, a great workplace and a strong economic engine for Portsmouth and Hampton Roads.”

Norfolk tribal casino

In Norfolk, with 20 of 49 in-person precincts reporting, 63.69% of voters voted "yes" to the casino plan for the city. The $500 million Norfolk project stands apart from the other three in that it was proposed by the federally recognized Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which is working with Tennessee billionaire investor Jon Yarbrough. The tribe could have sought to establish a tribal casino under federal law, but that would have meant more red tape than the commercial option now available under Virginia state law.

The Pamunkey tribe’s planned Norfolk casino will create about 1,500 permanent jobs and generate $185 million in annual revenue, with $50 million in annual taxes, according to JLARC projections. The tribe, which estimates 2,000 construction jobs and about 2,500 permanent jobs, also has said it plans to use the casino income to invest in the Norfolk community, its tribal lands in King William County and to fill 90% of the resort’s jobs with area residents, including 50% from minority groups. The tribe also committed $150,000 to help open a grocery store in the St. Paul’s neighborhood.

“We are moved beyond words by the tremendous display of support we’ve received from the Norfolk community,” Robert Gray, chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, said in a statement. “To everyone who advocated on our behalf, shared our message with their friends and neighbors, put up a yard sign, wore a sticker or simply voted yes, we cannot thank you enough. We look forward to working with you to make Norfolk even stronger for decades to come.”

The referendums on this year’s ballots are the final step in a process approved by the General Assembly earlier this year to legalize casinos in five economically challenged cities across the commonwealth. Now, the casinos’ operators must submit gaming license applications to the Virginia Lottery Board, which will oversee the commonwealth’s casinos.

Richmond is the fifth economically challenged city that can OK a commercial casino, but Richmond officials decided to wait until 2021 before a casino referendum appears on the ballot. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has expressed interest in building a resort in Richmond’s South Side area.

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