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With opening of new Rivers Casino Portsmouth, city eyes millions in tax revenue impact

A temporary casino facility run by Hard Rock in Bristol, VA generated millions of dollars worth of wagers after its initial opening last.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The years-long wait to open the casino doors on Victory Boulevard is officially over. 

On Monday, Portsmouth city leaders cut the ribbon on Virginia's first fully built-out and permanent casino.

The grand opening of Rivers Casino Portsmouth comes less than three years after city voters approved a casino referendum in the 2020 November election. 

By Monday evening, more than 8,000 casino-goers had entered the facility on its first full day of operation. Now, city leaders can turn and look ahead to its projected economic impact. 

"It's supposed to be a catalyst, an anchor for an entertainment district," said Brian Donahue, the Director of Economic Development for the City of Portsmouth. 

According to Donahue, the anticipated annual estimated tax revenue for the city from the casino is roughly $16.3 million, which would come from a mixture of real estate, hospitality, food and beverage, and gaming revenue taxes.

Portsmouth's slice of the gaming revenue tax pie is 6%, Donahue explained, which is money directly funneled back to the municipality from the state's Lottery Board in Richmond. 

“It’s got a sliding scale, so as the casino generates additional revenue, that percentage could increase to seven to eight percent, eventually," he said.

The temporary facility for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened in 2022 in Bristol, Virginia, and saw wagers total more than $37 million between July 5 and July 14, equaling more than $600,000 in taxes at an 18% rate. 

In addition to the tax revenue, Donahue adds the casino's 1,300+ permanent job positions make it one of the largest -- if not the largest -- private sector employers for the city. 

How to disperse the city's cut of the casino's tax revenue is up to the discretion of elected city leaders, per Donahue.

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