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Virginia cities are banking on a boom from casino gambling

Multi-story construction project of a permanent building for Caesar’s Virginia in Danville; Now hiring sign is in front
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VPM News Focal Point
Construction is ongoing for a permanent casino in Danville, a project the city says is bringing hundreds of jobs to the area

Nationwide, more than five hundred betting facilities are money-makers for about two-hundred-fifty different tribal groups. In Virginia, before the 2019 General Assembly approved casino gambling, the Pamunkey Tribe had proposed building a casino in Norfolk. Those plans are still pending, as the Pamunkey hope to break ground on the headwaters resort and casino within the year. Meanwhile, tribes from other states have already begun to establish themselves in Virginia.


ANGIE MILES: It was 2021 when the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in Cherokee, North Carolina, voted to join forces with Caesars to bring a casino and performance venue to Danville. This was an addition to EBCI's portfolio of gaming facilities across multiple states.

MICHELL HICKS (CHIEF, EASTERN BAND OF CHEROKEE INDIANS): When you think about, you know, our responsibility with running our own hospitals, running our own school systems, the tribe has to create revenue to support all of these services, health, education, public safety. We have approximately 6,000 employees in the Cherokee area.

ANGIE MILES: The temporary facility in Danville brought in more than 145 million in revenue in the first eight months, beginning in May, 2023. City Manager, Ken Larking, says local leaders and area businesses are banking on a boom.

KEN LARKING (DANVILLE CITY MANAGER): People are excited about new visitors coming into the community. I think businesses are seeing an uptick in various activities. We've got several people that are employed there that are making decent money and, you know, able to support their families and support the lifestyle that they'd like to have. So, it's having an impact. We estimate upon, you know, year three or so of a full operation of their full casino resort, that there'll be about 39 million dollars of new revenue per year into the community, into the city's general fund budget.

ANGIE MILES: Prior to Danville, the Eastern Cherokee had expressed interest in Bristol, but a company owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida won that deal, and the Hard Rock opened in July, 2022, as the first casino in the state. A permanent facility is set to replace Hard Rock's temporary space later this year. The first permanent location to open was Rivers, in Portsmouth in January, 2023. So far in Virginia, only the federally recognized EBCI and Florida Seminoles have facilities operating today.

Danville City Manager Ken Larking adds that while the potential exists for significant revenue increases from the new casino, the city is mindful that this type of revenue may not be as consistent or reliable as some other sources. He says that while hopeful about the promise of this new venture, the city is continuing to develop other assets, like the revitalized River District, which Larking says has already prompted population growth for Danville.

Virginia designated five localities to receive casinos -- Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond — requiring approval from local voters -- so far, Richmond has twice rejected a casino, and currently, Fairfax and Petersburg are actively expressing interest. The National Indian Gaming Commission says Indigenous gaming generates more than forty billion dollars each year.

Caesars Virginia was asked to participate in our story, but they declined to speak with us for the story when we were not willing to provide our questions ahead of an interview.


Angie Miles, Host/Producer, anchors and hosts VPM News Focal Point and special broadcasts.
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