Music, ribbon and ceremonial scissors marked the opening of Virginia’s first full-service casino on Monday. Rush Street executives officially welcomed guests Monday to Rivers Casino Portsmouth. Speakers included Rush Street Gaming CEO Tim Drehkoff.
“We’re excited to join such a vibrant community and to unveil this beautiful entertainment venue for all to enjoy. We’re grateful to the community and to our team members for their support. And, we’re looking forward to launching this strong economic engine for the region.”
The $340 million Hampton Roads casino is Rush Street Gaming’s fifth gambling venue. The company also has casinos in:
- Des Plaines near Chicago and
- Schenectady in Upstate New York.
Virginia casino industry grows with Rush Street investment
Rivers Casino Portsmouth is the first full-service Virginia casino. But, the state has been collecting casino revenue since July.
Bristol Casino — Future Home of Hard Rock, has reported nearly $82 million in revenue to the state. It opened as a temporary casino near the Tennessee border.
Portsmouth will soon have competition in its part of the state by the way. Plans for HeadWaters Casino in nearby Norfolk are coming together as well. The Pamunkey Tribe’s full-scale casino won’t be ready for 18-24 months. But, operators are working on a temporary casino in the parking lot of the area’s minor league baseball stadium.
Customers were anxious to start gaming
Confetti fluttered in January conditions and Natalie Anderson of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot heard the casino’s first customers chant “let us in” at the grand opening in Portsmouth.
Norfolk State University’s Spartan Legion Marching Band provided music. The Spartan musicians recently performed at the 2023 New Year’s Rose Parade.
Joining Drehkoff with remarks were:
- Rivers Casino Portsmouth GM Roy Corby
- Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover
- Virginia Lottery Director Kelly T. Gee and
- Portsmouth Economic Development Director Brian Donahue.
Gina Smith, the Virginia Lottery’s deputy director of gaming compliance, presented Rivers Casino Portsmouth executives with the casino’s official operator”s license.
Just 412 days passed from the groundbreaking ceremony to Monday’s grand opening, Corby told Virginian-Pilot staff members and others in attendance:
“In less than 14 months, Rush Street Gaming and Rivers Casino went from 10 shovels and two backhoes to more than 1,446 slot machines, 57 tables, 24 poker tables, five restaurants and bars, and over 25,000 square feet of event space.”
Delay and a soft open for Rush Street in Portsmouth
Rivers Casino Portsmouth officials needed some flexibility to welcome their first customers. The ceremony was originally scheduled for Jan. 15. But, the casino staff and regulators needed a little more time to test and verify its new gaming equipment.
Technically, some of the first bets took place before the grand opening. Proceeds from “gaming floor test events” on Jan. 19 and Jan. 21 went to good causes. Three organizations received $170,000 from the test events:
- Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters
- USO Hampton Roads and Central Virginia and
- Wesley Community Service Center
The donations add up to $510,000 from the casino. Mayor Glover, Senator L. Louise Lucas, and House Minority Leader Don Scott placed the ceremonial first wagers at the BetRivers Sportsbook during the Jan. 21 test event. Bettors will find the sportsbook near the gaming floor.
No hotel yet, but Rivers Casino Portsmouth has plenty of offerings
The BetRivers VA sportsbook at Portsmouth features club seating, a bar, betting windows, 27 self-service kiosks, and “multiple upsized high-def screens for viewing” according to the casino.
Corby mentioned the 1,446 slot machines, 57 table games, 24 poker tables. Dining options include:
- Admiral’s Steak & Seafood for high-end dining
- casual fare at Crossings Café
- Mian, a quick-service Asian food option
- Slice Pizzeria
- Starbucks; and
- opening later in 2023, Yard House — offering “the world’s largest selection of draft beer.”
Other Rivers Casino Portsmouth features
Casino visitors have to be 21 and over to go onto the gaming floor. There are other options at the site, however.
- a Topgolf Swing Suite has fairways on a big screen and a bird’s-eye view of the gaming floor
- The Sound Bar includes an intimate stage and lounge area. It will host local bands, DJs, and more.
- a 25,000-square-foot Event Center includes a grand hall. It also has a reception area for weddings, corporate events and meetings.
- and a City of Portsmouth police substation.
Now that the doors are open, operators plan to keep them open 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
“We’re here to serve the community, our guests, and our team members,” Corby said. “We’ll accomplish that mission by creating a stellar guest experience.”
He wants the casino to become “the entertainment destination of choice for Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, and visitors to our area.”