Caesars Entertainment has entered into a partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to develop the Caesars Virginia casino resort in Danville, Virginia, with plans to break ground this week.
The project will be a “tourism engine and economic driver for Danville and the broader region,” Caesars announced this week. The full-service entertainment facility will create thousands of construction and operational jobs for the area, according to a news release. But Caesars is navigating some challenges moving forward in the project.
Casinos were included as part of the gambling expansion that saw online Virginia sports betting launch in January 2021. Four cities held referendums in November 2020 and approved casino projects — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Richmond has not approved a casino.
Cost Adjustments to Caesars Virginia Plan
In May, Caesars senior development management advised the Danville City Council that the opening of the resort in 2023 is “unrealistic” due to cost and labor shortages, and challenges found at the construction site.
Since the Caesars casino project was unveiled in 2020, it has already gone through several changes.
When first introduced, the resort had a price tag of $400 million. With the addition of 200 more hotel rooms and other design changes, the investment was adjusted to $500 million.
In September 2021, Robert Livingston, senior vice president of development for Caesars Entertainment, said the cost will probably be north of $500 million.
“It sounds like a lot of money, ($500 million), but you can eat it up pretty fast,” Livingston said. “Especially in today's day of commodity prices.”
Announcing its partnership with EBCI on Wednesday, Caesars now estimates the project will cost $650 million.
Current Design of Caesars Virginia
Caesars Virginia will include a 500-room hotel and a casino gaming floor with more than 1,300 slots, 85 live table games, 24 electronic table games, a World Series of Poker room and a retail Caesars Sportsbook Virginia, the company said on Wednesday. In addition, the resort will feature a full-service spa, pool, high-quality bars and restaurants, a 2,500-seat state-of-the-art live entertainment theater and 40,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.
Caesars will serve as the manager of the casino. Caesars, EBCI and a local minority investor will be partners in the joint venture.
"We are excited to build a world-class Caesars resort in Danville with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, a valued partner of Caesars Entertainment for more than 20 years," Anthony Carano, president and chief operating officer for Caesars Entertainment, said in the release. "Caesars' diverse collection of destinations across the U.S. is synonymous with unparalleled service, impressive benefits through our Caesars Rewards loyalty program, superstar entertainment talent and culinary excellence. We will bring these same phenomenal offerings to the Danville region for people to enjoy."
Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said "this venture is a vital opportunity for our nation and our people.”
“We are excited to be expanding our longstanding and successful partnership with Caesars Entertainment to develop a first-class resort that will be defined by luxury and service that Caesars' guests have known and come to expect.”
There are two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in western North Carolina — in Cherokee and Murphy.
The $650 million casino resort is under construction at the former Schoolfield Mill in Danville. Caesars selected the Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner construction company to start the project.
Whiting-Turner planned on meeting with subcontractors and vendors on Wednesday during an outreach session at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research Facility in Danville. Subcontractors and vendors attending the meeting would be provided information on project status, procurement & schedules, bid packages release, diversity participation goals and a prequalification process.
Whiting-Turner built the Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, which opened in 2014.
Virginia's Casino Plan
The first Virginia casino, Bristol Casino by Hard Rock, opened on July 8.
Between January 2021 and May 2022, 14 Virginia sports betting apps launched as part of the gambling expansion in the state. The Caesars Sportsbooks sports betting app launched in August 2021.
Currently, Virginia online casinos have not been legalized as part of the gambling expansion that began in January 2021.