Danville’s temporary casino could mean millions in windfall tax revenue

Caesars Virginia will open a temporary casino in Danville in 2023, a year ahead of the permanent casino, slated for 2024. If the temporary casino in Bristol is any indication, it could mean millions in additional tax revenue for Danville.

Bristol is home to Virginia’s first – and so far only – temporary casino, called the Bristol Casino, future home of Hard Rock. It opened on July 8 and has already enjoyed considerable financial success.

“It’s actually a bit crazy, the numbers it’s pulling,” said Bristol economic development specialist Mack Chapman. “If the trend continues unchanged, it will actually exceed what the Joint Legislative Audit predicted for the fully developed casino in 2025.”

The temporary Bristol Casino (seen here in a photo taken in late June) opened in the former Belk store, at the rear of the mall’s former property. The Hard Rock name will not be attached to the property until the resort fully opens in 2024. Photo by Megan Schnabel.

Bristol’s permanent Hard Rock casino is expected to bring in $130 million in net gambling revenue and $35 million in gambling tax revenue in its first year, according to the Joint Legislative Audit.

But Bristol’s temporary casino is on track to generate more than $171 million in net revenue in its first year of operation, Chapman said.

The temporary casino generated $14.3 million in adjusted gross revenue in September alone, according to the Virginia Lottery. That’s about $447,000 a day.

Since opening this summer, it has brought in approximately $40.3 million in adjusted gross revenue.

“And that doesn’t include the sports book, which is also available right now,” Chapman said.

And in less than three months of operation, it brought in $2.41 million in gaming tax revenue. That amount will go to the Regional Improvement Commission, a body created by the General Assembly, which “will determine the best use of the funds,” Chapman said.

The tax revenue will be divided among 12 counties and two cities in southwestern Virginia by the commission. There is no official plan yet for the funds, but Chapman said it should be earmarked for education, transportation and public safety.

Danville, however, will not have to share casino revenue with other localities.

The four approved Virginia casinos are expected to generate approximately $672 million in net gambling revenue and approximately $181 million in gambling tax revenue in the first year of operation. Data published courtesy of the Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission.

The same audit projected $190 million in net gambling revenue and $51 million in gambling tax revenue for the first year of the fully-developed Caesars Virginia casino in Danville.

But Bristol has topped those numbers, so it’s possible Danville is too.

The Bristol Casino has also created over 600 jobs in the town of around 17,000 people. The casino began hiring those employees in February, about five months before the temporary casino opened, according to Andy Poarch of the Richmond-based Alliance Group, which handled lobbying efforts for the project.

The audit estimated that each permanent casino will employ around 1,000 people. In Danville, the estimated number of permanent jobs at Caesars Virginia is 1,300, in addition to the estimated 900 construction jobs.

Bristol’s Provisional Casino has also greatly increased visitation and tourism.

“We’ve already had visitors from 49 states,” Chapman said. “The only state that hasn’t been here is Alaska.”

Visits are tracked through a Hard Rock loyalty program, he said. According to the audit, approximately one-third of total casino revenue in Virginia is expected to be generated by out-of-state visitors.

“Overseas visitors would particularly contribute to the viability of the Danville and Bristol casinos due to their small local markets,” the audit said. But “it would also make them vulnerable if casino development were to occur in North Carolina and Tennessee.”

Danville City Manager Ken Larking said Danville is ready for the increased visitor numbers the casino will bring.

“Fortunately, we have prepared for this,” he said, citing the city’s tourism program that started about a year ago in anticipation of economic development projects like the casino. “We try to put all of our ducks online when it comes to welcoming people to Danville and showing them what else is available.”

Danville has been working with Caesars on traffic studies and other plans to prepare for the increased tourism the casino will bring, Larking said.

And the city will also welcome the tax revenue and job creation opportunity from the temporary casino, he said.

Larking said the temporary casino would be useful to train employees in a smaller location before the permanent casino is operational.

It’s something Chapman said has been beneficial to Bristol.

“It’s new right now, and you’ll have new employees learning the games for the first time,” Chapman said. “You just have to be patient, let them learn. When it all opens up, you’ll basically have seasoned veterans by then, and people are really excited about that.

Norfolk also plans to build a temporary casino, making Portsmouth the only one of four towns approved for casino resorts without plans for a temporary facility.

Norfolk’s Temporary Casino is a joint venture between the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and billionaire gaming industry professional Jon Yarbrough. That will come next year, before the $500 million HeadWaters Resort & Casino opens in 2024.

Similarly, the temporary Danville Casino will arrive in mid-2023, before Caesars Virginia opens in 2024. The temporary casinos must be located on the site approved for the permanent casino, so the Danville one will be on the Schoolfield site. , where the permanent casino is currently under construction.

Chapman’s best advice to Danville and Caesars is to work closely together.

“The way Hard Rock came about, everyone was into it,” Chapman said. “Even people who have been hired outside of [Bristol].”

He said the chairman of Hard Rock’s Hotel & Casino Bristol, Allie Evangelista, is “the face of Hard Rock” in the community. “She is very friendly, she participates in community events, spreading the name of Hard Rock.”

These projects are meant to be a partnership between the company and the community, Chapman said.

“Anyone Caesars brings to Danville, I would just encourage them to be part of the community,” he said.

Larking said he expected Danville’s temporary casino to be “a really good try”.

“We can kind of get an idea of ​​what it’s going to be like,” Larking said. “For as many months as it will be temporary, we will learn.”

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