Caesars opened a temporary casino in Danville on May 15. The permanent Caesars Casino Danville plans to debut by the end of 2024.
Even with a 320-room onsite hotel, some local experts think the demands will exceed what the area can provide for lodging options. Danville and neighboring Pittsylvania County currently have about 930 rooms, nearly all of them in Danville. The new Caesars hotel will increase that number by more than 33%.
But will it be enough?
New casino only part of the equation to revitalize Danville
After Virginia lawmakers chose Danville as a possible destination for a casino, residents of the city voted in 2020 to allow Caesars to be built. Virginia online casinos are illegal, as are retail casinos outside the five designated cities lawmakers chose in 2019.
When complete, the city hopes the permanent Caesars Casino Danville resort will bring 2 million new visitors to the region annually. However, it wants those visitors to spend some of their time and money elsewhere in the area.
Danville and Pittsylvania County have worked to revitalize the area’s tourism industry over the last couple of years. In 2022, out-of-town spending in both places set new records, totaling $112.7 million in Danville and another $31.5 million from the county.
Lisa Meriweather, tourism director for Danville and Pittsylvania County, told Cardinal News the demand is “not going to stop, and it’s not slowing down,” with Caesars’ temporary casino open and its long-term one due next year.
There are no plans to build any hotels in the area in the near future
The area’s hotel occupancy rate averaged 62% in August 2022, meaning it had many nights throughout the month with hundreds of available rooms. Still, that’s not a ton of vacancies to turn into occupancies when the permanent Virginia casino opens.
According to Meriweather, Pittsylvania County’s towns have no new plans for future hotels. Gretna, 30 miles north of Danville, has the county’s lone hotel, a Hampton Inn.
A couple of other independent bed and breakfasts also exist in Pittsylvania County. With such few options, many visitors to the county head south to Danville.
City of Danville to conduct study
Some city officials and hotel owners believe Danville already needs additional lodging, meaning it will need even more as tourism grows in the coming years. Others in the area believe occupancy rates are fine and Caesars is more than capable of handling the city’s future growth.
The city plans to hire a consultant to look at its overall lodging situation, including other nearby towns in Pittsylvania County.
Meriweather thinks the study will help spark future hotel plans in the city and county. Meanwhile, other officials want more variation in lodging options, citing occupancy rates as a reason not to build “more of the same.”
For example, Danville’s only boutique hotel, The Bee, outperforms the market with an occupancy rate of around 80% while hosting guests from around the US and the world. Its sister hotel, the Holbrook Hotel, will soon become the second boutique lodging option in town.
When Caesars opens, its resort-style nature will add to the area’s amenities. Nowhere else offers lodging, convention space, bars, restaurants and spa services on the same property.
Caesars will put Danville on the map
Caesars Danville has generated more than $19 million every month since opening its temporary facility. It looked poised to lead the state in slot revenue after only two weeks of business. It’s been in the top three every month since then.
August was the only month where Caesars finished second among Virginia’s three casinos, when its $14.2 million slot revenue fell just $268,000 shy of revenue at Rivers Casino Portsmouth. Even more impressively, Caesars has put up those numbers with almost half as many slot machines as Rivers (768 vs. 1,418 in September), which already operates a permanent facility.
Estimates project that when Caesars’ permanent casino opens, the city could receive more than $39 million in annual economic growth. Even the temporary facility looks to bring the city $12.1 million, including $8 million from local gaming taxes.
That growth will come at a cost to some, though. For example, Danville’s housing market has experienced rent price increases by as much as 80% in the last year.
Despite the timing, the casino has actually played an insignificant role in these spikes, according to local experts. The city has grown in the past few years, and the supply can’t match the demand.
It may be the same with hotel rooms in a year.