On May 19, the Danville City Council announced it chose Caesars Entertainment as its preferred casino partner. Unfortunately, it seems the announcement came about two weeks before they were ready.
The Danville Register & Bee recently obtained emails that show the early announcement was in response to a two-page ad that ran on Sunday, May 18.
The ad, purchased by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment and The Alexander Company, was designed to garner support from Danville residents for its White Mill Casino project.
Having already chosen Caesars to build one of the five Virginia casinos at the Schoolfield site on West Main Street, the council had no choice but to inform the public of its decision.
City Manager Ken Larking told the Danville Register & Bee that the formal announcement was “rushed.”
“Ideally, we don’t rush these sorts of things on Sundays.”
Danville casino bidding process
In December 2019, the city of Danville issued a request for proposals (RFP) from companies wanting to partner with the city to bring a casino to Danville.
As part of the RFP process, a company could submit two different proposals, one of which must be either the White Mill or Schoolfield site. Proposals were due by Jan. 13, 2019, well before casino gambling in Virginia became legal.
At the time, Larkin expected several companies to bid for the opportunity to build a Danville casino. Of course, one of those was Richmond-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment.
The RFP process was confidential, but 10 News reported seven companies submitted bids.
In that same report from May 7, Larking alluded to the fact that city council members were a few weeks away from selecting the city’s casino partner.
That might have been the catalyst for Peninsula Pacific Entertainment to run the ad. It probably wasn’t aware that it was too late for community support to sway the decision in their favor.
Why the Danville City Council chose Caesars
While we don’t have access to the other RFPs for comparison, Caesars comes to the table with a considerable advantage: Its name.
A well-known US gaming company, Caesars brings with it years of experience operating and managing luxury casino resorts.
Caesars has agreed to pay the city at least $20 million in upfront payments for Schoolfield site land acquisition and other city investments.
Caesars plans to invest over $400 million into the casino resort project. The project will create 1,300 jobs earning an average of between $35,000 and $47,000 per year — well above Danville’s median income of $22,200.
Caesars estimates it will pay the city over $30 million annually in gaming taxes. It expects the project to generate an additional $4 million from taxes on real estate, retail sales, hotel, and food and beverages.
While Caesars’ impact on the economy is impressive, so is the casino resort it is planning to build.
Caesars Casino Resort Danville will include:
- 500 hotel rooms
- 35,000-square-foot conference center
- 2,500-seat entertainment venue
Additionally, there will be an expansive gaming floor that will house:
- 2,000 slot machines
- 75 table games
- 16 poker tables
The voters will have the final say, however. A majority of residents must cast their ballot in support of the referendum on Nov. 3 to make Caesars Casino Resort Danville a reality. If the referendum passes, Caesars will welcome its first customers in 2023.