Portsmouth casino offers benefits to city, region
The Hampton Roads region has seen significant growth over the past few decades, but Portsmouth has been left holding the bag. That’s why I am proud to support the newly opened River’s Portsmouth Casino that will bring year-round jobs and an economic revival to the city.
One of the main benefits of the River’s Portsmouth Casino is the amount of tax revenue that will be generated and collected by the city of Portsmouth. On Feb. 15, the casino reported that it had generated more than $9 million of revenue in January. Keep in mind that the casino opened on Jan. 23, so this was all generated in just the first opening week. Of the $9 million that was generated, $7.5 million was from slots and $1.6 million was from table games. A grand total of $1.6 million will be taxed collected directly by the city of Portsmouth.
Another main benefit of the River’s Portsmouth Casino is the attention and tourism it will bring to the area. This is a benefit because the casino has the potential to draw in new customers from neighboring communities that will spend their money in the area and supply a boost to the city of Portsmouth’s overall economy. Tourists will come and eat at local restaurants, stay at local hotels, and buy local goods and services that would benefit the city and its residents. The casino is a wow factor for both residents and surrounding Virginians as it is the only permanent casino in the state for now.
Another huge benefit for residents of Portsmouth is the generation of 1,300 permanent local jobs. It’s no secret that the casino must employ residents to keep its facilities running. With a 400,000-square-foot gaming floor featuring 10 different bars and restaurants and a slew of amenities in the works, management will end up filling more than 1,300 permanent jobs. This will make the River’s Portsmouth Casino one of the city’s largest private employers.
One of the biggest concerns for the city’s residents is the potential for an increase in violent crime. A difference-in-difference model suggests that in the long-term commercial casinos are associated with no notable change in crime in their host county, but crimes in surrounding adjacent counties do significantly increase. Big winners are personally escorted by the Portsmouth Police Department to their cars. It is a good countermeasure, but can it be permanent? How much is this service costing the taxpayers to redirect police patrols to sit idle at the casino until a big enough winner constitutes a police escort?
These are all important questions that local city residents are asking that have yet to be answered by the city and the casino’s management. To go off this point about an increase in local crime is the notion of “import criminals.” These are criminals who are not local to the community and travel to the city specifically for high-value targets, such as patrons that are exiting the casino with big winnings.
Overall, there are many factors that have either a direct or indirect impact on the city of Portsmouth. Many have not been fully realized because this is the first permanent free-standing casino that Virginia has opened. The benefits this casino can bring to the city outweigh the drawbacks. The city is now able to utilize the tax revenue to lift the community out of its decline and employ 1,300 local workers while doing so.
The region has neglected Portsmouth. It’s time we support private businesses like this casino that will help drive economic growth in the region and support the local community.
Jacob Garner is a senior studying finance at Old Dominion University. He will graduate in May.