State Study: Virginia Casinos in Richmond and Petersburg Could Coexist

State Study: Virginia Casinos in Richmond and Petersburg Could Coexist
By Keith Stein
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

A study released by Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) on Monday found that a casino in Petersburg and one in Richmond could coexist and be profitable, but local leaders don't like the idea. The two additional casinos would join four already under construction in a state where online Virginia sports betting has quickly found firm footing.

The report will help Virginia's JLARC in assessing the impacts and implications regarding a potential casino in Petersburg. Only four cities in Virginia are approved for casinos right now — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth — and development is underway for each. Richmond was eligible for a casino but voters rejected the required local referendum in 2021.

Once the issue was voted down in Richmond, leaders in Petersburg, about 25 miles south, expressed interest is competing for the casino license.

“If we have two casinos in Petersburg and Richmond, they would cannibalize each other,” State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Petersburg) said during a press conference on Monday. “You would not get destination casinos. You would get two regional casinos. Petersburg might be smaller than Richmond, but I can assure you, we’re not going to be bullied by Richmond.”

Richmond hopes to vote on a second referendum to approve a casino for the city.

Morrissey plans to introduce legislation in 2023 that would allow Petersburg to move forward with a local referendum. There are no online casinos in Virginia.

Tax Revenue Impacts of Virginia Casinos

The report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission also looked into state and local tax revenue impacts if Petersburg receives a casino license in place of the one designated for, or in addition, to Richmond. The plan would surely impact existing and planned casinos in Virginia, and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums.

The study projects a Richmond casino would generate $249 million in net gaming revenue whereas a Peterburg casino would generate $140 million. Without the Richmond casino, Petersburg would generate $204 million in net gaming revenue and $12.2 million in local taxes for the city. The casinos would not hit these net gaming revenue numbers until 2028, the projected time they would be open for a year.

“Casino gaming revenue in Virginia is estimated to increase by 18% from the addition of a casino in Petersburg, by 29% from the addition of a casino in Richmond, and by 36% from the addition of casinos in Petersburg and Richmond,” the report says. This would impact Rivers Casino in Portsmouth, followed by HeadWaters Resort Casino in Norfolk and Caesars Virginia in Danville.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol lies far from either Petersburg or Richmond “and thus the market overlap is very small,” the report says.

Hard Rock Bristol opened a temporary casino on July 8, becoming Virginia's first casino. A full-scale casino is planned to open in 2024. The casino has generated $40 million in Adjusted Gross Revenue since opening and paid over $7 million in taxes to the state.

In total, Rosie's Gaming Emporium revenue is projected to decline by between $46 million and $104 million from a Petersburg or Richmond casino. The Rosie’s facility in Richmond is projected to experience the heaviest impact, followed by Colonial Downs in New Kent. Rosie’s facility in Hampton would have already been heavily impacted by the casinos in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Competition From Border States

About one-third of total Virginia casino revenue is projected to be generated by out-of-state visitors, the JLARC said. But there is also competition just over the border.

The competition for Virginia’s expanded gaming market will come from facilities operating in neighboring states such as Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and North Carolina. The JLARC report identified 13 existing competitors in this market area.

  • Bally's Dover, Dover, Delaware
  • Delaware Park, Wilmington, Delaware
  • Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
  • Harrah's Cherokee, Cherokee, North Carolina
  • Harrington Casino, Harrington, Delaware
  • Hollywood Charles Town, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Hollywood Perryville, Perryville, Maryland
  • Horseshoe Baltimore, Baltimore
  • Live! Casino & Hotel, Hanover, Maryland
  • MGM National Harbor, Oxon Hill, Maryland
  • Ocean Downs, Berlin, Maryland
  • Rocky Gap, Cumberland, Maryland
  • Two Kings Casino, Kings Mountain, North Carolina

MGM National Harbor, about 110 miles northeast of Richmond, is the closest casino to the Richmond and Petersburg area. That facility has 2,200 slot machines, 170 tables, 308 hotel rooms, 13 food and beverage venues, and 2,706 employees.

In the meantime, bettors in the Commonwealth can use Virginia sportsbook apps to place wagers on many events at a variety of operators.

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Contributors

Keith Stein is a Virginia-based writer for BetVirginia.com who covers sports betting and casinos.

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