Rivers Casino Portsmouth Tops First-Year Revenue Projection By $2.3M

Written By Phil West on February 6, 2024
Blocks with money signs on progressively higher stacks of wooden blocks for story on Rivers Casino Portsmouth beating first-year revenue expectations

In its first year of operation, Rivers Casino Portsmouth has exceeded its revenue-generating expectations — and that’s good news for the City of Portsmouth.

A report from WAVY-TV noted that according to Brian Donahue, the city’s economic development director, the casino has generated about $18.3 million for the city’s general fund since its grand opening on Jan. 23, 2023.

About $15.4 million has come from the city’s share of gaming tax revenue, while $2.2 million in real estate tax has been raised, along with about $700,000 tied to meals, admissions, and business taxes.

More than $2.3 million above initial projections

That total exceeds the $16 million in first-year taxes that casino developers projected in 2021 for the Portsmouth casino.

Donahue said, according to WAVY:

“I think it’s gone fantastic. I think that everything we expected would come from Rivers Casino locating in Portsmouth has been happening from a, you know, revenue generating standpoint, from the partnership with the casino with the community involvement that they’ve had. I think it’s met and exceeded all of our expectations and what was expected.”

It’s notable that the casino has generated this level of revenue without an accompanying hotel. There’s not a timetable for a hotel to open, raising concerns that this could affect future revenues, already projected to level off to about $10 million in its second year. Donahue, however, is optimistic that $16 million is an annually attainable level of revenue generation.

Lack of a Norfolk casino helps bottom line for Rivers Casino Portsmouth

Robert McNab, chair of the Department of Economics at Old Dominion University, told WAVY that a Norfolk casino that hasn’t yet materialized, along with a proposed Roanoke casino that residents voted down twice, could impact the Portsmouth casino.

“Portsmouth’s casino is in probably in the best competitive position it will see for many years,” McNab said. “There is no Norfolk casino, there is no Richmond casino, it is enjoying a monopoly on the casino gambling space in Hampton Roads. If your revenues are just slightly above projections in the best-case environment. You should probably be looking at lower estimates in revenues going forward if we see the Norfolk casino eventually get off ground.”

That casino, the proposed HeadWaters Resort and Casino, is currently going through the city’s review process but is currently stalled.

Project representative Jay Smith, responding to reports last month that plans were pulled so architecture and engineering teams could produce the additional design work necessary to address the direction provided by City Council, issued a statement:

“Until that work is completed, we have asked for a continuance before the ARB. As soon as we are confident that the plans meet the needs of the city and tribe, we will ask to be put on the ARB agenda.”

Looking ahead 50 years

Rivers Casino Portsmouth came online as a result of a November 2020 referendum authorizing five casinos to open in Virginia. So far, the Portsmouth casino is the only one of the five to be operating in a permanent facility, though Bristol and Danville casinos are operating out of temporary homes while their respective Hard Rock and Caesars parent companies erect casinos to open in those cities later this year.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth also recently celebrated its first year in business with a time capsule ceremony, looking ahead to an opening date of Jan. 23, 2073. Until that time, the capsule is being buried next to the casino’s water feature.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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