First, Bristol is required by state law to share its monies generated from its casino, whereas Danville and other localities allowed to have casinos are not, Danville City Manager Ken Larking pointed out.
City officials in Danville did not discuss the possibility of sharing gaming-tax revenues from Caesars Virginia with Pittsylvania County, Larking added.
When the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation allowing casinos in certain eligible host cities meeting criteria — including Danville — and with approval from their voters, Bristol was the only city required to share its revenues, Larking said.
The other cities in the legislation were Richmond, Portsmouth and Norfolk.
“The General Assembly selected those communities because of the unique circumstances [high poverty rates, high unemployment] in those communities and so the revenue generated by the casino was intended to address those issues,” Larking said.
Considering how well the city and county get along and work together, it would have been nice if the two localities could have collectively shared in the process, Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Vic Ingram said.
However, “they [the city] didn’t get cooperation from the county, so I just consider that our loss,” Ingram, who was not on the board when the idea of a casino in Danville was considered by local officials in 2019, added.
“The city and the county disagreed on the casino,” he said. “Based on that, the city moved forward, we got left behind and I do not blame the city for that.”
Chatham-Blairs Supervisor Bob Warren also pointed to the productive relationship between the city and county. But he added that the county “didn’t come out for or against the casino. We remained neutral on that.”
Either way, the county and the region as a whole will reap the benefits of casino, whether directly or indirectly, Warren said.
“We [the city and the county] work so well together, in the long run, whatever is beneficial to Danville will end up benefitting the county as well,” Warren said.
Caesars Virginia in Danville will likely attract endeavors that will positively affect the county, he added.
“There will be some projects that come from the casino being there that hopefully will benefit Pittsylvania County,” Warren said.
Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said that when the casino legislation was drawn up in Richmond, Bristol officials wanted the requirement that their city share their gaming-tax revenues with surrounding localities.
“Nobody else did that, so that’s why Bristol is sharing its money,” he said.
Marshall said he approached county officials in 2019, including the county administrator and board of supervisors’ then-chairman, about the possibility of receiving a share of revenues from a casino in Danville.
The chairman at the time wanted the money but said he would not endorse the idea of a casino, Marshall said. Some of the board members did not support the project, he said.
As for Bristol, an entity called the Regional Improvement Commission receives the entire local share of the gaming-tax revenue generated by its casino and distributes it among the city and 12 counties included in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Bristol District. Those counties include Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe, according to a March 3, 2020, article in the Bristol Herald-Courier.
“I think from the outset, everybody recognized that this project would benefit not just the city of Bristol but benefit the entire region,” Bristol City Manager Randy Eads told the Herald Courier in 2020. “Southwest Virginia as a region needs a financial infusion, and this is one way to allow everybody to benefit from this economic development project at the Bristol Mall.”
Messages left for Eads by the Danville Register & Bee were not returned.
The Herald-Courier reported on Oct. 16 that September revenues from the Bristol Casino rose slightly compared to August, totaling more than $14.3 million.
The Bristol Casino, future home of Hard Rock, generated $14.3 million in adjusted gross revenues from slots and table games in September, the Herald-Courier reported. That total included $11.32 million from its 870 slot machines — a slight decline compared to August — and more than $2.98 million for table games.
Since opening July 8, Virginia’s first, and currently only, casino has recorded more than $40.3 million in adjusted gross revenues, the newspaper said.
As for Danville, its development agreement with Caesars Virginia calls for a minimum of $5 million in annual gaming-tax revenue for Danville after it opens. Taxes on real estate, meals and lodging will also generate money for the city. Officials expect $38 million in total annual revenues from the casino after it begins operating.
Caesars Virginia’s plans include a $650 million destination resort casino with 500 hotel rooms inspired by local scenery. There will also be a spa, pool area and fitness center.
The casino will feature more than 1,400 slot machines and table games, Caesars Sportsbook and WSOP Poker Room, a live poker room named for and carrying the spirit of the legendary World Series of Poker with 25 tables, Caesars Entertainment has said.
Meeting and convention space will total 40,000 square feet with an entertainment venue to accommodate up to 2,500 guests. There will also be restaurants and bars. Nine hundred construction jobs will be filled as well as 1,300 operational jobs.
The company plans to open the casino in 2024.