Virginia Lottery Awards Casino License To Rivers Portsmouth

Written By J.R. Duren on November 18, 2022
A new Rivers Casino coming to Portsmouth, Virginia

The Virginia Lottery granted a casino license to Rivers Casino Portsmouth.

The Lottery announced the decision this week after Rivers Portsmouth made a presentation to the Lottery during its scheduled board meeting. The board approved the license with a unanimous vote of 7-0.

Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid said in a statement:

“The gaming landscape in Virginia continues to evolve and the Lottery Board is committed to ensuring that casinos in the Commonwealth are operated responsibly, fairly and with the utmost integrity.

While not all Virginians will choose to visit these facilities, all of our citizens need to be confident that they are regulated with the very highest standards.”

Rivers Casino Portsmouth becomes the second entity to earn a Virginia casino license.

Hard Rock Bristol was the first earlier this year, and just a few months later it opened a temporary casino. Rivers Portsmouth is still under development.

Rivers Casino will boost the local economy

Construction of the Porstmouth casino began earlier this year and will cost more than $300 million to build. The plan is for the casino to open by early 2023.

The casino projects its construction and operation will provide multiple economic benefits to the area, including:

  • More than 1,300 permanent jobs
  • More than 1,400 construction-related jobs
  • Over $200 million injected into the local community each year

Projections show Rivers paying more than $16 million a year in taxes to the City of Portsmouth.

Additionally, the city provided no tax incentives for the project. Instead, the Rivers paid the city $10 million for the site where the casino is being built.

Generally speaking, Rivers seems to have done well in avoiding city money. Other cities—Aurora, Illinois, for example—have faced spirited community pushback for giving city money to casinos for building projects.

The Portsmouth property will be Rivers’ fifth full-service casino. It runs casinos in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York. The company also has a property on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls.

Rivers becomes the second licensed Virginia casino

In April, the Virginia Lottery announced it awarded its first casino license to Hard Rock Bristol. Just three months later, Hard Rock opened a temporary casino, making it the first casino in Virginia.

The temporary facility is home to:

  • 30,000 square feet of gaming
  • More than 800 slots
  • 21 table games
  • A sportsbook

Though Hard Rock already launched its temporary casino, Rivers Portsmouth will likely be the first full-service casino open in the state. Hard Rock projects their Bristol property to open in the summer of 2024, more than a year after Rivers Porstmouth plans to open.

What the casino industry will look like in Virginia next year

Virginia voters in four cities approved casinos: Bristol, Porstmouth, Norfolk, and Danville.

Bristol and Portsmouth are well on their way to opening permanent casinos. In Norfolk, HeadWaters Resort & Casino is awaiting license approval to start construction.

The casino has plans for a $500 million waterfront property with 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games, and a hotel with more than 300 rooms.

Development is already underway at Caesars Virginia Casino in Danville, the fourth Virginia city to host a casino. The Caesars project will cost $650 million and is expected to be finished in late 2024.

In the meantime, Caesars plans to open a temporary casino by the middle of 2023.

Photo by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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