he Portsmouth City Council approved rezoning and use permits for the Rivers Casino on Tuesday, essentially giving their thumbs up for the project. Now, casino developer and future operator Rush Street Gaming is preparing its application for a license from the state’s lottery board.
Two-thirds of Portsmouth voters voted in favor of a casino project in November, and Rush Street plans to invest more than $300 million in the project, expected to create 1,300 permanent jobs and 1,400 construction jobs.
Mayor Shannon Glover and council members Paul Battle, Lisa Lucas-Burke, Bill Moody and Christopher Woodard voted to grant Rush Street use permits to operate the casino and accompanying hotel and rezoned the 57-acre property on Victory Boulevard for an entertainment district. Because of a city “second reading” rule, the council will vote on those items again on June 8 to finalize their decision.
Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and Councilman Mark Whitaker voted against the permits and rezoning. Barnes wanted to delay the vote, stating that the Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP had asked Rush Street questions that were not answered. He previously initiated a move to delay voting on the casino at the council’s May 11 meeting.
Tuesday, Barnes asked several questions about when the hotel accompanying the casino would be built. Rush Street representatives didn’t provide a firm date, saying they want the hotel to be built as soon as possible, but they wanted to customize the hotel for the clientele coming to the casino. The development agreement between the city and Rush Street allows the firm to start working on the hotel at any time but requires it to begin work on the hotel upon hitting certain revenue benchmarks once Norfolk’s casino opens.
If Portsmouth’s casino earns a profit of $175 million in one year or $250 million over two years while competing against Norfolk’s casino, then Rush Street must begin building the hotel within a year. If work on the hotel hasn’t started after four years of the Portsmouth casino being open, then the city’s economic development authority takes over the project and can seek a new builder.
Interior renderings unveiled
This week, Rivers Casino Portsmouth has released the proposed interior renderings for the new gaming and entertainment complex planned off Victory Boulevard.
The project will feature a 50,000 square foot casino with 1,890 gaming positions, a sportsbook, restaurants, a live entertainment lounge and more than 62,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space that can host concerts, weddings and meetings.
The facility is also proposed to have a 250-room hotel and sit south of Interstate 264 at Victory Boulevard.
The newly released renderings highlight the facility’s promenade, state-of-the-art gaming floor, multiple bar areas flanked with large LED screens, a live music lounge, dining areas with canopy trellis-covered seating, and other amenities.