It has been no simple task to bring casinos to Virginia. But the marketplace is thriving, and a roadmap has been laid down for other casinos to follow.
Richmond is approaching another vote to decide if a casino will be brought to the city. At the same time, Norfolk is trying to get its plans for a casino off the ground.
There is plenty that can be learned from the experiences of Danville, which opened a Caesars casino in May.
The five-year process of opening Caesars Danville Casino
Virginia online casinos are still prohibited. Players can play at sweepstakes and social casinos for prizes that can be converted into real money.
Building the permanent Caesars Danville Casino, also known as Caesars Virginia, has not been quick or easy. The immediate success of the temporary casino, however, is making the transition less painful.
In six weeks of reported figures, Caesars’ temporary casino accumulated nearly $31 million in adjusted gross revenue (AGR). That has led to over $5.5 million in tax dollars being contributed to the state. That amount of early success shows the Virginia casino market is growing steadily.
The process of adding a Caesars casino in Danville began in 2018 when casino gambling was legalized in the commonwealth. After legalization, City Councilman Lee Vogler said the first step was meeting with casino operators and public officials in different states. The goal was to broaden their perspective of what adding a casino would entail.
“We went to different states and locations to meet with the casino operators in similar scenarios to our own. We met with mayors, police chiefs, and any one of those locations to ask them the good, the bad and the ugly about it.”
Gaining input from the public was also prioritized. Doing so aided the process of bringing Caesars to Danville once the public voted in favor of the plan.
According to Danville City Manager Ken Larking, the communication between the public and city officials provided the framework for the path forward.
“Of course, it was up to the citizens to decide if they even want to do it. And it’s our responsibility as public officials to make sure that if the public asks for us to do it, that we are doing it the best way possible.”
Once voters passed the plans, Caesars elected to open a temporary facility while waiting for the permanent casino to be built.
What can Norfolk and Richmond learn from Danville’s experience?
Richmond and Norfolk can learn from Danville’s experience adding a casino. According to Larking, patience is key when launching a casino.
“I would not recommend just popping down a large development like this without any thought. You have to really understand the process. You have to understand what is at stake, and you have to understand the impact and plan for what that impact might be.”
Another potential pitfall for Richmond is not learning from the past. A perfect plan for a casino could be created, but it won’t matter if the residents of Richmond do not vote in favor of adding a casino.
Vogler knows this is a possibility considering Richmond residents already voted down casino plans in 2020.
“You’ve truly been able to show the community buying. Richmond, for example, was a part of the legislation in Virginia, and when they put it in front of their citizens, it didn’t pass.”
This is why working with the public is important when opening a casino or trying to get the plans for a casino passed. Without public outreach, how are residents supposed to feel comfortable voting in favor of the measure?
Progress slow on casinos in both Richmond and Norfolk
If Richmond casino plans are passed in November, ONE Casino and Resort would be built. The plans of the casino feature over 10,000 square feet of gambling space which will house over 1,800 slot machines, more than 100 table games, a poker room and a sportsbook. The hotel will feature 250 rooms and a convention center.
A Norfolk casino was approved by voters back in 2020, but progress has been slow. The resort will be called Headwaters Resort and Casino and the gaming floor will feature 3,000 slot machines and around 150 table games. There will also be 300 hotel rooms and suites, but construction has yet to begin. There is no opening date announced at this time.
The appetite for expanded gambling in Virginia has increased as more casinos have been added. The future seems bright for both Norfolk and Richmond once the doors to the casinos are open.
The future of Caesars Virginia in Danville
Caesars has big ideas for its destination casino and resort.
The plans outlined on its website say the property will include a hotel with 500 rooms as well as a full-service spa, pool, and high-quality bars and restaurants. The cherry on top is the 2,500-seat venue that is described as a “state-of-the-art live entertainment theater” and the 40,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.
There will be what Caesars describes as a “world-class casino gaming floor” for guests to play their favorite games. The casino will feature more than 1,300 slot machines, 85 live table games and 24 electronic table games. Additionally, there will be a poker room big enough to host events for the World Series of Poker and a Caesars VA Sportsbook.
The permanent location of Caesars in Danville is expected to open next year after breaking ground in August 2022.