RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia capital appears to be close to approving its favorite casino project, but betting is expected to start earlier in other parts of the state.
After a tender, a plan to build “ONE Casino + Resort” in the Southside area of Richmond is expected to be submitted to City Council for approval next week after receiving a key recommendation from an appointed review committee on Thursday. by the mayor. After that, voters will have their say in November.
It comes after the Virginia General Assembly gave five “economically struggling” communities permission to go ahead with casino plans last year.
However, developments in four other cities – Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth – are ahead of the game after winning a majority of voters in local referendums last fall.
These communities are now eagerly awaiting the promised revival of economic growth, but a lengthy regulatory process is forcing developers to delay construction for now.
“Casino games are unlikely to be available in any city in Virginia until the spring or summer of next year,” Virginia Lottery executive director Kevin Hall told 8News on Friday. “These are major developments that have a very long track between approval, licensing, construction and opening.”
With the initial casino regulations in effect, a review committee within the Virginia Lottery began accepting license applications.
Hall said these are not expected to be approved until April 2022. That’s because the process requires extensive vetting of operators, suppliers, vendors and every employee with access to the gaming area, according to Hall.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to make sure this is done in the right way, that we don’t take any shortcuts and that we make sure that casino operators exercise the utmost integrity,” said Hall. .
With an uncertain licensing schedule, the developers have been hesitant to specify target dates for the opening, although they have provided estimates.
At Hampton Roads, tension is mounting over which of the two projects – less than seven miles apart – will get started first.
“We definitely want to be the first and we definitely want to be the best,” Delceno Miles, a spokesperson for the Rivers Casino project in Portsmouth, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “There is a competitive advantage in being the first.”
Miles predicted that the facility could open as early as fall 2022 with an arcade, sportsbook, event center, outdoor entertainment venue, and restaurants.
In Norfolk, the HeadWaters Resort & Casino run by the Pamunkey Indian tribe is slated to open fully in 2023, according to spokesperson Jay Smith.
A spokesperson for Caesars Casino, Kristin Soo Hoo, said they plan to open in Danville by the fourth quarter of 2023.
So far, the developers at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Bristol have come up with the most ambitious schedule, initially announcing plans to open a temporary gaming floor by the end of 2021.
“It’s highly unlikely,” Hall said. “It has to follow all the rules of the permanent casino game, but it can happen in a temporary facility while construction is in progress. They still have to go through the full background check and licensing process. “
Hall said that of the four projects approved by a local referendum, only developers in Bristol have so far expressed public interest in opening a temporary play space.
However, Mark Hubbard, a spokesperson for ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond, said he plans to do so before the end of 2022, although they don’t expect to fully open until 2023 at the earliest. Hubbard warned that it all hinged on approval from city council, voters, and the Virginia Lottery.
Hall said the schedule was realistic, even with a relatively late start. He said ONE Casino + Resort will not be able to apply for a license until the November referendum.