Primed for the polls
Casino developers and city leaders kicked off a referendum campaign earlier this week aimed at promoting the Norfolk Resort and Casino to local voters. Citizens of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk head to the polls on November 3 to vote yes or no for casinos in their Virginia locales.
$500m project would help the waterfront city recover
Norfolk has chosen the Pamunkey Indian Tribe as its construction partner for the casino facility, which is set to be located near Harbor Park. At a press conference, Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray stated that the $500m project would help the waterfront city recover from “one of the greatest hits to the economy in our lifetime”.
Presenting the All In For Norfolk Casino committee, Gray said the group would be “out there” to ensure that local residents are made aware of the benefits that a casino would bring to the area.
“Millions of new dollars”
Also present at the press conference, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said the city could benefit from “millions of new dollars in new tax revenue that will be committed to public education.”
around 2,500 permanent jobs and a $754m annual economic impact
The Norfolk Resort and casino is projected to create around 2,500 permanent jobs and a $754m annual economic impact for the southeastern Virginia city. In a tweet late August, All In For Norfolk Casino estimated annual employee earnings would hit the $100m mark:
A tale of four cities
As the November 3 referendum looms for the four Virginia cities, the casino developers and their partners are upping their promotional ante. The Pamunkey Tribe have created a media-rich standalone website featuring an almost three-minute-long promo video:
On Tuesday, 20 leading small businesses came together to form the Vote Yes for Bristol referendum committee. The group’s goal is to drum up support for the proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol. Backed by Hard Rock International’s owners, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the casino is expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the city.
While Portsmouth and its partner Rush Street Gaming haven’t launched an official campaign as yet for Rivers Casino Portsmouth, the project also has a standalone website that includes 3D renderings of the proposed facility. Portsmouth is located directly opposite the ‘Mermaid City’ of Norfolk on the Elizabeth River. While Chief Gray acknowledges one casino in the area could in effect forecast greater revenue, he said: “That doesn’t deter me from saying we can both exist.”
Led by former CEO Tony Rodio, the Caesars for Danville campaign launched on August 12. The proposed $400m southern Virginia casino is slated to create 1,300 ongoing jobs.
Candidate selection criteria
On March 8, the Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 4, which would permit the operation of the first-ever commercial casinos in the state. The ruling authorizes gaming, subject to the November 3 referendum, in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, under the regulation of the Virginia Lottery Board.
Should citizens vote yes, the measure would provide a massive economic boost for some of Virginia’s most at-risk cities. When legislation was first introduced in January 2019 to allow casinos to operate in the state, the criteria for qualifying cities included an unemployment rate of four percentage points, a poverty rate of 20% of the population, and a year-on-year decrease in the population at 20% or higher.