Why would a Vegas-style casino being built by Caesars Entertainment in Danville, VA, concern North Carolina leaders?
The answer is simple: money. The massive, $650 million casino resort could entice hordes of North Carolinians to cross the border to gamble. That has NC leaders concerned that their state’s three tribal casinos will not be able to compete.
In fact, a recent study shows the state could lose $259 million in gaming revenue annually to its northern neighbor.
Caesars Virginia to open temporary casino in Danville next month
Virginia is playing catch-up when it comes to retail casinos. Voters in 2020 approved Virginia casinos to be built in four cities: Danville, Norfolk, Bristol and Portsmouth. The latter two have casinos in operation already. Casinos in Danville and Norfolk will open in 2024, including Caesars Virginia.
Caesars Virginia operators, however, aren’t waiting until 2024.
A tent will house temporary operations as soon as next month. There will be 740 gaming machines, 25 casino table games as well as eight kiosks dedicated to sports betting, said Chris Albrecht, general manager of Caesars Virginia.
“We decided it was a great opportunity to look forward and getting this operation going, starting to generate some revenue, getting team members trained.”
Study shows impact Virginia casinos could have on North Carolina
All of Virginia’s current and expected casinos are in Southern Virginia, near the border with North Carolina. The new Caesars Virginia in Danville will also be just 90 minutes from The Triangle. It’s an area that houses three major universities in NC.
That spurred NC leaders to call for a study on the potential of building NC casinos to offset money flowing to Virginia. The study by the Spectrum Gaming Group estimated that Virginia casinos could take in around $259 million in gaming revenue annually from NC gamblers.
This study considered casinos in all four Virginia cities. The largest loss would be from the Caesars Virginia in Danville.
- Danville: $236. 5 million
- Portsmouth + Norfolk: $12.4 million
- Bristol: $10 million
Adding more NC casinos might be a solution, state senator says
With just three casinos operating in North Carolina, Senate leader Phil Berger has suggested that North Carolina should look into what options are available to handle the anticipated leak in funds due to casinos near the border in Virginia.
The three NC casinos include two on Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians land in western North Carolina and the third on Catawba tribal land off of Interstate 85, not too far from the South Carolina border. Berger says they’re too far away from where most North Carolinians live.
“If you look at population centers, the real population centers are south of Danville in North Carolina. So I think there’s a legitimate concern of a drain from North Carolina into Virginia: of dollars, of business, of people. We’ll see whether or not there’s something that that is practical for us to do in North Carolina to address that.”
The most obvious option, of course, is to expand the number of casinos in the state, especially in Northern NC.
The same study that indicated Virginia could take $259 million in revenue from NC indicated that the impact of standalone casinos in three northern counties could bring in $1.6 billion in revenue annually. Berger said the state must explore that option.
“Whether or not gaming is something like that, I think it’s worth exploring. We’ve not done that yet, but I’m sure there’ll be conversations.”