What Competition Does Portsmouth Casino Face For Virginia Gaming?

What Competition Does Portsmouth Casino Face For Virginia Gaming?
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The Commonwealth of Virginia will open its second retail casino in Portsmouth next month, which will surely have an impact on the state's growing gambling market and surrounding competitive environment. But how will Portsmouth measure up to the competition?

Four Virginia cities have approved casinos — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth — and development is underway on each. A temporary facility is already operating in Bristol while a permanent casino is under construction.

The state's capital, Richmond, was eligible for the fifth casino but voters rejected the required local referendum in 2021. Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond, is now attempting to snatch the casino away from the capital.

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Rivers Casino Portsmouth Set For Jan. 15 Opening

The $340 million Rivers Casino Portsmouth, scheduled to open its doors on Jan. 15, will be part of the city’s planned Entertainment District. Portsmouth voters welcomed the casino in a November 2020 referendum. The city's population is 97,840.

Owned and operated by Rush Street Gaming, the Portsmouth casino will feature 1,448 slot machines, 57 table games, and a 24-table poker room. Located at Interstate 264 and Victory Boulevard, the facility will have restaurants, an event center, a movie theater, BetRivers VA Sportsbook, Topgolf Swing Suite, and retail stores. The food and beverage program features Admiral’s Steak & Seafood, Starbucks, Mian, Slice Pizzeria, and Crossings Café.

A recent report published by the Commonwealth's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) shows there is plenty of competition that could affect Virginia’s expanded gaming market. Competition is expected from gaming facilities operating in neighboring states such as Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina.

The JLARC report was performed to assess the feasibility and impact of putting a casino in Petersburg in place of, or in addition to, one in Richmond. The report also looked at what competition Petersburg would be up against. The study can also be used to gauge the competition facing Portsmouth, only 68 miles from Petersburg.

The report identified existing competitors and proposed gaming facilities in the future that would be competition for Petersburg and Virginia gaming overall.

State Has Six Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums

The new Rivers Casino Portsmouth is a 28-minute drive from Rosie's Gaming Emporium in Hampton, Va. First introduced in 2019, six Rosie's Gaming Emporium locations in Virginia provide Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines for gamblers. HHR machines are very similar to casino slot machines but use a database of past horse racing records to randomly determine a win or not. Casino slot machines use a computer-driven Random Number Generator to signal a win.

Rosie's has experienced great expansion over the past three years and continues to look to the future. A new Rosie's Gaming Resort is scheduled to open in January in Dumfries followed by another location planned for Emporia in July. Rosie's currently has locations in Richmond, Hampton, Vinton, Collinsville, Dumfries, and New Kent.

A look at Virginia's future gaming plans shows heavy market overlap and impact between Rivers Casino and Rosie's, along with HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk, and Caesars Virginia in Danville. Hard Rock Bristol lies some 380 miles from Portsmouth and thus the market overlap is very small. Rosie's facility in Hampton would experience the heaviest impact from the casinos in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

As far as Rosie's revenue results for all six existing locations in the 2022 fiscal year, the Richmond outlet led the way at $120,321,413. The rest were: Hampton $100,499,106; New Kent $47,438,026; Vinton $35,973,951; Dumfries $29,653,856 and Collinsville $6,489,813.

There are no Virginia online casinos at this point.

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Portsmouth’s Reach Into Neighboring States

Virginia's first casino, Hard Rock Bristol Casino, has generated a consistent $14 million in Adjusted Gross Revenue every month since opening in July and has registered over 50,000 visitors with its Unity rewards programs.

That added a physical casino to a statewide gaming market that already included Virginia sports betting, which launched in 2021.

"Not having a hotel and a destination resort, we expect to be more of a locals market and people driving within maybe 100 miles is basically what we’re seeing the most right now,” Bristol Casino President Allie Evangelista told the Bristol Herald Courier. "That is very traditional in markets like this. Our demographic and our visits will change quite a bit once we have a hotel."

Hard Rock plans to have the permanent resort and hotel in place for an opening in May 2024. In the meantime, Hard Rock is booking eligible Unity rewards members in local hotels, like Delta Hotels and Courtyard by Marriott Bristol, to name a few.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is doing the same, according to its website.

“Rivers Casino is partnering with the best local hotels to offer you plenty of opportunities to stay nearby,” the site says.

Using a 100-mile radius as an example, as mentioned by Hard Rock's Evangelista, Rivers Casino should have no problem pulling residents over the border from the northeast region of North Carolina.

That state has three tribal-run casinos; Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, Two Kings Casino in King Mountain, and Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy. All three locations are in the far western region of the state, between 350 and 510 miles from Portsmouth. The Virginia/North Carolina border is less than 25 miles south of Portsmouth.

Other States Have Casinos But Not That Close

Outside of Virginia, the nearest casino is Harrington Casino in Harrington, Delaware, about 180 miles from Portsmouth. MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, is about 200 miles away. Even farther afield are Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia (240 miles from Portsmouth) and Two Kings Casino in King Mountain, North Carolina (350 miles).

Rivers Casino Portsmouth might not be the only casino in the Hampton Roads region for long. HeadWaters Resort & Casino could have a temporary facility up and running by March. The permanent casino there is slated to open in 2024.

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Keith Stein

Keith Stein is a Virginia-based freelance journalist for BetVirginia.com. He has a combined 27 years of experience in freelance writing, full-time journalism and supporting monthly and weekly news publications. He has also worked as a contributing writer with United Press International.

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