Virginia Casinos

Full-scale Virginia casinos are coming to Bristol (Hard Rock), Danville (Caesars Entertainment), Norfolk, and Portsmouth (BetRivers) Their arrivals will bring a billion-dollar entertainment option to all corners of the state.

Bristol has been a preview of coming attractions. Its Virginia casino history began when it opened the state’s first temporary casino — in July 2022.

Residents in four cities voted to allow casino locations to be built inside their city limits. Richmond also had an opportunity to join the mix, but the city and developers will ask voters to decide with a 2023 vote on a casino in the capital city. The Virginia Assembly and then-Gov. Ralph Northam agreed to bring casinos to the state in April 2020.

As casino construction continues, sports fans have an at-home option. Virginia became an active sports betting state in January 2021.

In essence, the only thing left to do is build the properties and turn on the slot machines.

Virginia casino update

UPDATED: Sept. 26, 2022

With a casino vote postponed until 2023, Richmond officials can court a new casino owner or stick with its Urban One partner ahead of next year’s vote. The city and Urban One maintained a partnership  in January, but the agreement expires at the end of the year.

Bristol Casino — Future Home of Hard Rock wants diverse partnerships as it works toward completion of the full-scale  Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Bristol. The casino is part of the 2022 SWVA Regional Pitch Contest. It’s intended to pair often-overlooked business owners with the billion-dollar casino business. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will eventually open at the Bristol Mall site. For now, Bristol Casino operates out of a converted Belk department store space within the mall.

Casino construction continues in Portsmouth, Danville, Norfolk in addition to Bristol.

Petersburg could challenge Richmond is a fifth potential casino city in Virginia, depending on the outcome of a feasibility study by the Virginia General Assembly.

VA preferred casino partners

VA Casino Host CityPreferred Casino PartnerPotential Sports Betting Platform
BristolHard Rock InternationalHard Rock Sportsbook
DanvilleCaesars EntertainmentCaesars Sportsbook
RichmondUrban One/Peninsula Pacific EntertainmentTBD
PortsmouthRush Street GamingBetRivers Sportsbook
NorfolkPamunkey Indian TribeTBD

VA casino host cities

Legislation allowed for casino gambling in five cities:

  • Bristol
  • Danville
  • Norfolk
  • Portsmouth
  • Richmond

Those cities were chosen based on criteria set forth by the legislature, including:

  • 40% of the city’s real estate is exempt from local property taxes
  • 4% higher unemployment rate than that of the state
  • 20% poverty rate
  • 20% population decrease from the previous year

Voters in all of the cities except Richmond formally approved the projects during the 2020 election cycle. They simply needed half of the votes, but each casino referendum passed by a convincing 2-1 margin.

Richmond voters, though, opted against casino gambling and voted no to a casino referendum on 2021 Election Day.

Virginia casino launch timeline

DateEvent
June 1, 2020Preliminary review of casino partners begins.
July 15, 2020Lottery Board meeting
Aug. 14, 2020Deadline to order referendum with host cities.
Nov. 3, 2020General Elections in Bristol Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth
Nov. 16, 2020Secretary of State certifies election results.
Late DecemberHost cities certified and notified the Lottery of its preferred casino partner.
Feb. 3, 2021Casino regulations finalized and applications for casino gaming licenses become available.
Nov. 2, 2021Richmond voters narrowly reject One Casino + Resort proposal
June 2022Virginia General Assembly blocks a Richmond vote until 2023 in order to study a Petersburg site.

Opening the first VA casino

Currently, the four host cities have received approval of their casino partners from the VA Lottery, the regulatory agency for gambling in the state.

In addition, the cities passed measures during the November 2020 election that allowed voters to decide if they would allow the construction inside their towns. Each referendum passed overwhelmingly, and site work and construction are moving forward.

At present, regulators continue to finalize the regulations to govern casino gambling in the commonwealth. As it stands, “Bristol Casino — Future Home of Hard Rock,” a temporary version of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol,” opened first. The scaled-down temporary casino began welcoming guests in July 2022.

VA casino tax revenue

Virginia, and the rest of the country, for that matter, is experiencing some financial challenges as its economy emerges from the pandemic-forced shutdowns.

Needless to say, revenue for the state is an important topic. That’s why casino gambling’s impending arrival in 2022 or 2023 cannot come too quickly.

When VA casino gambling finally does launch, however, it is estimated to provide $262 million in tax revenue.

Casino revenues will be taxed on adjusted gross revenue according to the following schedule:

  • 18% on the first $200 million, 6% of which is designated to the host city
  • 23% on the amount exceeding $200 million and not exceeding $400 million, 7% of which is designated to the host city
  • 30% on the amount exceeding $400 million, 8% of which is designated to the host city

The big beneficiary of casino tax revenue outside of the host cities is the public fund supporting school infrastructure projects including school construction and upgrades. It receives the remaining funds after the cities are paid, minus:

  • 1% by a VA Indian tribe operator to the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund
  • 0.8% to the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund
  • 0.2% to the Family and Children’s Trust Fund

History of gambling in VA

Some form of gambling in Virginia has been legal since 1973 when charitable gambling became legal.

Today, charitable gaming includes several forms of bingo and poker. Its 1.125% tax generates more than $265 million per year for the state.

In 1988, the Virginia Lottery began operating in the state. Today, more than 100 games are offered by the VA Lottery, including the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions draw games.

The state has more than 5,000 retail locations, and all profits (roughly 30% of ticket sales) are designated for education. In 2020, the Lottery generated $595 million for schools.

One year after the introduction of the Virginia Lottery, horse racing in Virginia became legal.

The market was averaging about $100 million per year in revenue from 2000 until 2014, when Colonial Downs was closed due to a conflict between the owners and breeders.

Colonial Downs reopened in 2019, but the live racing schedule was ultimately canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, officials from the Vinton racetrack enjoyed a full 2022 season with live spectators. Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock is also planning the same for its fall season of harness racing.

In 2016, several daily fantasy sports sites received licenses form the state. And in 2018, HB1609 approved historical horse racing machines (HHR) that allow bettors to wager on previously run races.

In May 2018, the federal ban on sports betting was lifted by the US Supreme Court. It started the more than two-year journey toward legalizing sports betting and casino gambling in Virginia.

So far, 2022 is already a banner year for gambling in Old Dominion. The launch of sports betting in January 2021 was nothing short of a boon for the state.

Temporary casinos are opening around the state. The multi-million-dollar permanent casinos won’t arrive until late 2023 as the earliest. So, Virginia is well on its way to becoming a full-service gambling state.

VA casino FAQs

Customers can expect casino games similar to those found in any casino, including poker, blackjack, slot machines, and craps.

Ultimately, it is the Lottery Board that will authorize all casino gaming. Additionally, the law allows for on-premise mobile casino gambling.

The current law only allows for casino gambling in the five designated host cities. Any further expansion would require additional legislation.

Yes. The law establishes the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund which will provide resources to help someone with a gambling problem. Call the Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline at (888) 532-3500.

The Virginia Lottery is the regulatory agency that oversees Virginia casinos. It establishes the regulations for safe casino play and ensures players’ funds are protected.

Additionally, the Lottery Board is responsible for:

  • Game testing
  • Investigation of license applicants
  • Auditing of the financials of the state’s casino gambling operations
  • Maintaining self-exclusion programs in Virginia
  • Providing problem gambling resources