Rivers Casino Portsmouth Receives Virginia Gaming License, Targets Early 2023 Opening

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Rivers Casino Portsmouth Receives Virginia Gaming License, Targets Early 2023 Opening

Rivers Casino Portsmouth on Wednesday secured unanimous approval from the Virginia Lottery Board. The panel voted 7-0 to award an operating license for its forthcoming $340 million gaming venue.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth Virginia gaming
Rivers Casino Portsmouth Virginia gaming
A recently installed sign outside the forthcoming Rivers Casino Portsmouth greets guests. The Virginia Lottery Board this week unanimously approved a gaming license for the venue in anticipation of its early 2023 opening. (Image: The Virginia-Pilot)

Rivers Portsmouth comes from Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based gaming developer heavily invested in Pennsylvania with Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. The firm additionally operates Rivers casinos in Des Plaines, Ill., and in upstate New York in Schenectady.

Rush’s next casino will open in Virginia’s Hampton Roads. The company told the Virginia Lottery Board that it’s nearing completion of construction on the casino that is being built adjacent to Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth campus.

The casino will sit on 57 acres just south of I-264 between Victory Blvd. and the recently named rapper Missy Elliott Blvd.

Elliott is a Portsmouth native. The Portsmouth City Council in September officially renamed the portion of McClean Street nearest the casino in honor of the “Queen of Rap.”

Second Casino Licensed

For decades, Virginia was one of the nation’s most resilient anti-gaming states. Though Virginia has a state-run lottery, before 2020, both tribal and commercial casino gambling remained illegal.

That changed when the Virginia General Assembly and then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) agreed to a new plan. They would allow five cities facing a myriad of economic hardships to ask their constituents if they support authorizing a casino to generate new jobs, tax revenue, and other regional development activity.

Portsmouth was one of those cities, the others being Norfolk, Danville, Richmond, and Bristol. Only Richmond voters opted against their casino opportunity.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is the second of the four under-development casinos to be licensed by the Virginia Lottery Board. Hard Rock’s temporary casino in Bristol will forever have the distinction of being the first commercial casino ever to be licensed in Virginia.

Now, the race is on to open Virginia’s first permanent casino, and the odds are good that Rivers Portsmouth will beat the three other projects to the finish.

Our Rivers Casino Portsmouth team is grateful to the Virginia Lottery Board for their thoughtful and thorough consideration,” said Roy Corby, general manager of Rivers Casino Portsmouth. “We look forward to sharing the timing and details of our early 2023 grand opening with the Hampton Roads community very soon.”

Opening first in Hampton Roads could prove critical, as a larger casino resort is being built in neighboring Norfolk. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe and gaming billionaire Jon Yarbrough are constructing a $500 million casino resort on the Elizabeth River. HeadWaters Resort & Casino, which will include a 300-room hotel, is targeting a 2024 opening. But it plans to open a temporary gaming facility in March of 2023.

No Temporary Plans

Hard Rock Bristol opened a temporary casino, also a first in Virginia, in July. Rivers Portsmouth has no plans to open a provisional gaming space.

When Rivers Casino Portsmouth opens, guests will find a casino floor with 1,448 slot machines, 57 table games, a 24-table poker room, and a BetRivers Sportsbook. Amenities will include five restaurants and bars, banquet and event space, and more than 2,000 parking spaces.

Rivers Portsmouth is expected to employ 1,300 permanent positions. Construction has supported about 1,400 temporary hires.

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