Mayor Thinks Hampton Should Join Nearby Norfolk And Portsmouth With Casino

Posted on November 20, 2020 - Last Updated on November 21, 2020

The Hampton Roads region in Virginia will soon have two new casino-resorts. However, a potential Hampton casino could make it a trifecta, the city’s mayor hopes.

This past week the Hampton City Council approved its newest requests for its legislative delegation. Among their requests to state legislators is one for Hampton to pursue and develop its own casino resort.

That would create three Virginia casinos within a 20-mile radius on the Peninsula. Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck said he still thinks it would work.

“It wouldn’t be something that would really, really be a negative for the area,” he told PlayVirginia. “So that’s why I said the area could support three casinos. And that’s why we are still hopeful.”

Room for a Hampton Casino?

Voters in the nearby cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth both overwhelmingly approved casino gambling earlier this month. Each city had a casino referendum on Election Day.

The Virginia General Assembly laid out criteria earlier this year regarding which Virginia casinos would be permitted to vote on casinos. To qualify, a city would have to prove its struggles with tax revenue, unemployment, poverty and declining population.

Hampton didn’t meet the criteria, due to its population holding steady for the past three decades. However, Tuck and the Hampton City Council hope the Assembly considers the city’s request during its next session.

Earlier this year, the commonwealth conducted its own study to show that two casinos could be viable in the area. Soon after, Hampton commissioned its own study to show that three casinos could also work and boost overall tax revenue.

In fact, Tuck thinks Hampton could have a small geographical advantage by being the easiest location for tourists, especially those from western areas of Virginia, to reach.

“We believe that we are positioned (so that) individuals coming from the western part of the state would get to us first,” he said. “And with the tunnel congestion, actually a casino in Hampton might have more appeal than in the other areas only because of the challenge in getting to the southside.”

Also, benefiting Hampton’s casino aspirations? The city clearly has a taste for gaming.

“Back in the 1990s, there was an effort to do riverboat gaming, and that was led by Hampton,” Tuck said. “And we had a referendum, and it passed.

“Unfortunately, the state wasn’t ready for it, but again, it passed in our city.”

Hampton’s History of Gambling Support

As a consolation, lawmakers permitted Hampton to open an off-track betting facility. That resulted in the 2019 opening of a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. Rosie’s gaming parlors feature historic horse racing (HHR) machines. They look like slot machines, but as Rosie’s explains on its website:

“The major difference that sets HHR apart from traditional games is the results of these games are not random. HHR is a true pari-mutuel wagering system that is delivered to the customer in an entertaining video experience.”

Tuck said Rosie’s has proven a hit with Hampton residents. In fact, he said the few complaints that he hears from citizens aren’t about gambling’s potential impact on neighborhoods, crime or the impact to local businesses. Instead, usually the lone issues involve the difficulty getting into Rosie’s.

“The only concerns and complaints are that it monopolizes the parking in that one area, that shopping center, and that there needs to be some other type of arrangements,” he said.

As Tuck and other Hampton officials await the General Assembly’s decision on a possible casino, he said the city will continue speaking with potential casino partners. Portsmouth teamed up with the experienced Rush Street Gaming, and Norfolk has partnered with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

“We’re still looking at potential suitors,” he said.

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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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