Petersburg, Virginia, Casino Idea Backed by the City Council
Petersburg City Council has reignited its efforts to become the fifth city to host a Virginia casino.
The council’s decision, made official in a meeting on Tuesday, seeks to bring a gambling resolution to Petersburg’s voters by 2025.
Earlier this month, voters in Virginia’s capital, Richmond, voted against a proposed casino resort for the second time, clearing a path for Petersburg to pursue the opportunity.
Richmond’s withdrawal from the scene, along with the success of casinos in other Virginia cities like Caesars Entertainments’ temporary venue in Danville, has motivated Petersburg officials to consider a casino as a potential economic stimulant for the city.
“In light of Petersburg’s status as a distressed locality, advancing a casino could provide significant economic relief, like the benefits experienced by Danville and Bristol,” said a letter from council members endorsing the proposal.
“This venture could offer residents employment opportunities that surpass the current median household income of roughly $44,000 per year, and individual income of about $26,000 per year.”
Economic Impacts of Virginia’s Casinos
The decision to pursue a casino in Petersburg is bolstered by the positive economic impacts observed in other Virginia cities with newly opened casinos.
For instance, the Caesar’s Virginia casino in Danville opened in May 2023. It has generated over $107.9 million in state gaming revenue and $6.5 million in city tax revenue.
Similarly, the Hard Rock casino in Bristol has produced $215.7 million in state gaming revenue since its opening in July 2022.
Those venues are also only temporary, with much larger casino resorts planned for both sites. That could significantly expand the revenue opportunities, with Caesars set to spend $560 million on its casino.
Proponents estimate that a casino in Petersburg could generate around $204 million annually in gaming revenue and $12.24 million in local tax revenue, providing a significant boost to the city’s economy.
In 2019, five cities were told to hold casino referendums by Virginia lawmakers. Out of those, Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, and Norfolk all passed the vote, and only Richmond rejected it.
Rivers Portsmouth is currently the only permanent casino running in the state. It opened in early 2023 and welcomed its millionth visitor by summer.
The Norfolk casino resort project is moving forward, but has faced significant delays.
Sports betting will also expand in the state once all five full casinos are open. Currently, only Hard Rock Bristol offers sports betting, but three of the planned full resort projects will include new Virginia retail sportsbooks.
The pursuit of a casino in Petersburg is part of a broader legislative agenda that includes requests to the General Assembly to change the requirements for cities to have a casino.
Petersburg seeks to eliminate the poverty and tax exemption-based criteria for cities with populations of more than 200,000, which could exclude Richmond from future casino considerations.
This legislative strategy aims to enhance Petersburg’s chances of securing a casino license. Mayor Sam Parham, a strong advocate for the casino project, and city spokesperson Joanne Williams have expressed optimism about the economic benefits a casino could bring to Petersburg’s stagnant tax base.
As the city prepares to present its case to the voters and the state legislature, State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-16) is also an apparent ally to the cause.
“Petersburg is the best location … now that Richmond has declined,” Morrissey said. “Losing the referendum in Richmond was a tragedy. But the silver lining may be relocating that casino to Petersburg.”
Interested operators in the project could include Baltimore-based Cordish Companies. The operator proposed a $1.4 billion casino resort last year to Petersburg city council members.