A Portsmouth Resort With A Casino But No Hotel? City Council Wants Answers

Written By Dann Stupp on March 15, 2021 - Last Updated on August 2, 2023

The new Portsmouth resort will undoubtedly have a casino, but developers aren’t so sure about that promised hotel.

Last week, a Rush Street Gaming official addressed the Portsmouth City Council. During the session, the representative from the Chicago-based gaming company gave council members the latest timeline for the project.

In November, Portsmouth residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of the casino as part of a referendum. As a result, Rush Street, the city’s preferred casino partner on the $300 million Rivers Casino Portsmouth, got the green-light to move forward.

However, at least during the initial opening, the Portsmouth casino-resort may be void of a hotel.

Portsmouth resort’s hotel on hold?

The Rivers Portsmouth Casino Resort could open by the fall of 2022. However, there were months of uncertainty regarding the hotel section of the Virginia casino.

Mike Tobin, a senior vice president for Rush Street Gaming, told the Portsmouth City Council that there’s no definitive timetable for the hotel. At times, the discussion with some clearly frustrated council members got a bit contentious.

The WAVY.com 10 On Your Side team has reported extensively on the Portsmouth casino project. In its latest report, it noted that this is the first time the company has publicly acknowledged the unlikelihood of the hotel being part of the formal launch.

As Tobin said:

“Our goal is … to be the first permanent casino open in the state of Virginia. So we are really focused on getting the casino as open as quickly as possible. Our goal is to get the hotel open at the time that it can be most effective for being a successful addition to the community of Portsmouth. … The last thing any of us want to do is have a hotel that opens at the wrong time relative to the hotel-hospitality market and isn’t successful.”

Tobin ultimately pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s caused so many unknowns for hospitality companies.

Competition from Norfolk casino?

WAVY.com’s 10 On Your Side’s Brett Hall has been covering the casino project since its earliest days.

In 2020, he first wrote about why Rush Street might not even be required to build a hotel. That’s because nearby voters approved a Norfolk casino: the the $500 million Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk. In fact, if the two casinos don’t reach certain benchmarks for net gaming revenue, the City of Norfolk could bring in another developer to build the hotel.

However, Tobin said Rush Street will definitely construct a hotel, even if he doesn’t know exactly when.

“Absolutely we’re building a hotel,” Tobin told city council members.

However, as PlayVirginia reported last week, Rush Street officials recently released new renderings for the Portsmouth casino. Though it’s unclear when the hotel will open, it’s still part of the current renderings.

Ultimately, Rivers Portsmouth Casino Resort is expected to feature:

  • Full-service hotel
  • Casino and BetRivers VA sportsbook
  • Live event center
  • Conference and meeting space
  • Restaurants and bars
Photo by Deb Zulawski | Dreamstime.com
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Dann Stupp

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

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