Virginia’s Casino Market Grows, Attracts North Carolina Visitors
Terri Powell walked into Rivers Casino in Portsmouth,Virginia, on June 30, expecting a normal day. But instead of a traditional experience, Powell was greeted with confetti and applause, as she became the casino’s millionth customer.
In addition to a confetti-filled celebration, Powell also received $1,000 worth of free slot play, dinner for four people at the on-premise steakhouse, and tickets to a show at the casino.
“That was an absolutely amazing event. Her excitement was magnetic,” Rivers Casino Portsmouth General Manager Roy Corby told US Bets.
Rivers Casino Portsmouth reached a million customers in about six months of operation, as the casino opened in January of 2023. The casino is Virginia’s first operating out of a permanent location.
Virginia’s growing casino landscape
In addition to the Portsmouth property, Danville and Bristol both have casinos as well. Hard Rock Bristol was Virginia’s first casino, opening its temporary location on July 8, 2022. Caesars Virginia opened a temporary location in Danville on May 15.
The locations are spread out across the commonwealth, creating a retail casino ecosystem (Virginia doesn’t allow online casino gambling) that allows each casino to thrive in its own area.
“Each of the properties is unique to its own market,” Corby said. “All of Rivers casinos are intentionally unique to our markets, custom designed and integrated seamlessly with the particular city that we’re in.”
While the casinos have their own space, there’s still competition within the market. The May revenue report shared by the Virginia Lottery shows that the Caesars location in Danville did well in its first two weeks of operation, and the location seems poised to become one of the most popular across the state.
Hard Rock Bristol generated $12.9 million in adjusted gaming revenue in May, while Rivers Casino Portsmouth generated $20.6 million. Caesars Virginia wasn’t far behind, posting $11.9 million in adjusted gaming revenue despite opening mid-month.
In addition to the three active casinos, the process is moving slowly for a Norfolk property to open. There have also been intense debates about bringing a casino to Richmond, which is one of the five Virginia cities designated to allow casinos in state legislation.
North Carolina casino expansion?
With the Danville property opening close to the North Carolina border, some legislators in the Tar Heel State were interested in bringing casinos to North Carolina rather than having residents drive across the border to visit one.
“You see these casinos going up on our borders,” Rep. Jason Saine told WRAL. “People are going to these destination spots. It employs a lot of people. That’s got to be attractive to members in those areas who see it as a tremendous opportunity for economic development.”
Despite a push from a few legislators, it doesn’t seem like North Carolina will open non-tribal casinos in the immediate future. From a gaming perspective, the state’s legislators spent the 2023 legislative session more focused on legalizing mobile sports betting. That effort was successful, and mobile sportsbooks will launch in the state in 2024.
A lack of casino expansion in North Carolina is good news for Caesars Virginia, as early reports suggest some North Carolina residents are now visiting Danville because of the new casino.
“With inflation and everything, people want to find something close to travel to, and they want to enjoy themselves without having to drive or fly miles or a hundred miles away, so this is a perfect location,” Kendrick Mitchell, a Durham, North Carolina, resident, told ABC11.
Virginia’s three active casinos are all in prime locations to attract out-of-state patrons. Like Caesars Virginia, the Rivers Casino location in Portsmouth isn’t far from the North Carolina border. Hard Rock Bristol borders Tennessee, which allows mobile sports betting, but doesn’t have retail casinos.