Southern Virginia could be home to a new $400 million Caesars casino by 2023. That’s the plan in Danville, where city officials have a deal with the company, pending a vote this coming November.
In March 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill granting limited gaming in the commonwealth. The bill restricted casinos to a list of cities including Danville. After the bill passed, Danville put out a request for proposals, looking for a company to partner with. Caesars won out with a bid promising a 35,000 square-foot convention center, a 2,500 seat live entertainment venue and multiple restaurants and bars. That goes along with the main casino, featuring 2,000 slot machines, 75 table games like blackjack, 16 poker tables and the region’s first sportsbook.
This adds up to the $400 million price tag, which Caesars plans to invest. There is a catch, however, as the deal is not quite done. That 2019 gaming bill featured a clause requiring one final sign-off by residents. Danville residents will have to vote on Election Day 2020 before the project can move forward. Originally, the plan involved a series of town hall style meetings to happen over spring and summer, in order for Caesars officials to meet and hear from city residents. COVID-19 pushed those plans back, so now it’ll likely be late summer before any meetings take place.
Why Pick A Virginia Casino?
For the city, there are multiple advantages with the Caesars bid. It includes at least $20 million in upfront payments to buy land and other public investments. Also, it doesn’t require any incentives from the city or state. Caesars officials said a Danville casino offers opportunity not just for the city, but for the company as well.
“Danville provided an opportunity for a regional expansion into an underserved market area,” said a Caesars spokesperson. “Approximately 10.5 million people live within three hours of the proposed resort. Caesars Entertainment thrives in areas where we can market and grow our industry-leading Caesars Rewards Database.”
That’s a benefit for both. Overall, 55 million people take part in the Caesars program, with more than two million in Virginia and North Carolina. Previously, those gamers had to fly out to another state in order to play at a Caesars casino. Now there could be one within driving distance. The company benefits through a new opportunity for gamers and the city gets the revenue from meals and other dollars spent. But what about the future? By building a casino in southern Virginia, what will that mean for future plans? Caesars officials simply said their focus was on the successful development and management of the Danville property.
See our complete guide to Virginia Online Gambling And Sports Betting.
When Would This Open?
If voters support gaming in November, then the physical work begins. As we mentioned earlier, COVID-19 delayed the scheduled town hall meetings, but those will likely start in July or August. The idea is to get a sense of what local residents want in the design and overall concept. It can take up to three years to put it all together. That includes designing the project, doing all the studies needed for state approval and then actually beginning construction.
“Projects of this size typically take between 18 to 36 months to develop and construct,” a Caesars spokeswoman said. “Based on the timing of the referendum, we would expect the casino to open in 2023. The three main drivers of [the] development timeline are site prep, including environmental and structural studies, [the] design phase and [the] actual construction timeframe.”
There is a belief the virus shutdown could actually help in this case. Due to the interest in having 1,300 jobs and 99 immediately in construction, permit approvals that typically take six months could get through in much less time.
Why Build It Now?
But why now? What made now a good time to move forward with a new project? After all, we are still in a pandemic shutdown. COVID-19 forced all casinos to close in March and slowly they’re starting to reopen, but even those have to follow multiple restrictions. Some gaming industry analysts question if companies will be able to finance the same casino resorts originally pitched or if they can afford Virginia’s $15 million licensing fee. For the Danville project, that’s where the delayed timeline serves as a benefit. Since the project is not expected to be finished until 2023, that gives the company time to recover from the COVID-19 hit. And Caesars didn’t avoid the damage. The company’s stock went from a high of 14.63 per share in February to a low of 3.52 on March 18. Now it’s climbing again, rising to 12.20 as of Friday.
Caesars officials say they’re looking to the future.
“Caesars Entertainment continually looks for interesting development opportunities that provide the balance of establishing strong partnerships with host communities, creating lasting entertainment experiences for our guests and generating positive returns for our stakeholders,” a company spokeswoman said.