Danville’s Caesars Casino Approved By 70/30 Margin

Posted on November 3, 2020 - Last Updated on November 4, 2020

The ballots have been tallied, and Virginia voters have formally approved Caesars Casino Resort Danville.

Residents approved the Danville casino referendum by a vote of 13,022 to 541, a 69%/31% split.

Caesars Entertainment and the Danville City Council, which announced a partnership in May, will now move forward on the Caesars Casino Resort Danville project in the south-central Virginia city. They’re planning for an opening in 2023.

The $400 million hotel and resort will be constructed at the Dan River Mills industrial complex in Schoolfield.

As Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment, said in a statement:

“Caesars Entertainment thanks the voters of Danville for their support of the referendum that will bring Caesars Virginia to Danville. We look forward to fulfilling the trust the voters have placed in us by bringing 1,300 good-paying jobs, tourism dollars and economic development to the City, and we are incredibly excited to begin construction.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly designated five economically disadvantaged cities in VA that could host a casino referendum. Four of them – Danville, Bristol, Norfolk and Portsmouth – voted this year (Richmond voters will cast their votes on Election Day in 2021).

The Danville casino project has seen strong support from city leaders, including key endorsements, heading into the Election Day vote. They argued that the casino would continue the city’s recent transformation.

Danville casino vote results

With 100% of the precincts reporting, a total of 18,963 of Danville’s residents weighed in on the measure. That is roughly half the population of the city.

Here’s the text that appeared on Danville ballots:

“Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the City of Danville, Virginia at 1100 West Main Street, Danville, Virginia 24541 (former Dan River Mills Schoolfield Division Site) as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?”

As throughout the rest of the commonwealth and US, many Danville residents cast their ballots via early voting. In fact, 42.5% of registered Danville voters cast an absentee ballot prior to Election Day.

Proponents had spent months stumping for the casino.

Many Danville leaders, including mayor Alonzo Jones, enthusiastically supported the project. Additionally, the Caesars for Danville campaign was visible and persuasive throughout 2020.

However, though more than 100 area businesses pledged support, anti-casino efforts included a handful of local business owners via the Defend Danville group, as well as the Local Action PAC.

Danville casino at Dan River Mills in Schoolfield

Caesars Virginia in Danville will bring a world-class resort to the Virginia-North Carolina border.

In fact, developers have long maintained it’ll be a “tourism engine” for the city. After all, 10.5 million people live within three hours of the planned resort site.

According to Caesars Danville, the casino-resort will feature, among other attractions:

  • 300-room, four-star hotel
  • Casino, poker room and sportsbook
  • 35,000-square-foot conference and meeting center
  • 2,500-seat live entertainment venue
  • State-0f-the-art spa
  • Pool
  • Fitness center
  • Multiple restaurants, bars and retail shops

The Danville casino project’s key selling point was its ability to transform the former Dan River Mills industrial complex in Schoolfield. The 85-acre site sits along the Dan River on West Main Street in the central part of the city. It’s currently recognized as a national historic district.

However, the complex, which was once the largest textile facility in the South, has been vacant since 2006.

Additionally, though the Danville riverfront has recently undergone a vibrant revitalization, the deteriorating Dan River Mills complex has overshadowed much of that progress.

However, rather than replace the site, Caesars designers promise to celebrate its rich history. They plan to incorporate themes and aesthetics from the once-thriving mill, including its smokestacks, red bricks and overall industrial design.

Caesars Virginia’s impact on job and economy

Heading into Election Day, proponents boasted about Caesars Casino Resort Danville’s ability to bolster the city’s economy and employment numbers.

The project could generate 1,300 full-time jobs and 900 temporary construction jobs. Caesars officials say they will put a focus on local job candidates and working with local businesses.

The full-time jobs would include salaries between $35,000 and $47,000, according to Caesars officials. They’ll also offer full benefits. The positions, which would range from entry-level to senior executive, will be in areas such as marketing, gaming, facilities, finance, food and beverage, and security and surveillance.

In fact, Caesars Entertainment has already hosted a series of employment webinars to discuss potential careers at the casino. Also, Caesars officials say they will partner with nearby Averett University and Danville Community College to create workforce development programs.

In addition to the jobs, Caesars will pay the City of Danville $5 million upfront to purchase the Schoolfield site. The company will also pay $20 million to the riverfront city within 30 days of the referendum passing, which can be spent how ever Danville sees fit.

In all, the casino could generate more than $20 million annually in tax revenue for Danville by its third year.

Here’s the pitch that Caesars made to Danville voters:

“Within three years of opening, the resort is expected to generate $22 million in gaming taxes annually for the City. In addition, Caesars has agreed to pay an additional subsidy to the City – above and beyond the gaming taxes – based on the resort’s gaming revenues. This annual subsidy is estimated to be $12 million after five years. The resort is also expected to generate more than $4 million in other local taxes, including property, meals, and hotel occupancy taxes.”

The Danville City Council recently has organized virtual town halls to give residents the opportunity to weigh in how potential gaming tax revenue could be spent.

Danville casino next steps

With voters officially approving Caesars Casino Resort Danville, at least two years of development and construction now begins.

The Virginia Lottery, which will oversee casino gambling in the commonwealth, has to adopt final casino regulations by April 2021. Once it does, the Las Vegas-headquartered Caesars officials can formally apply for a gaming license.

However, VA Lottery officials can take up to 12 months to render its decision. Currently, Caesars officials expect to break ground in the second half of 2021.

Among the next steps for the Danville casino project:

  • Citizen input on design and development
  • Community impact study
  • Traffic study
  • Determining infrastructure needs

Unlike some proposed Virginia casinos, which could open in stages, officials plan to have all the Danville casino’s attractions operational upon its initial launch, likely in 2023.

Photo by AP / John Locher
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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