Danville, one of a handful of cities in Virginia that is considering bringing casino gaming to their region, has taken the next step in the process should the General Assembly pass legislation legalizing casino gambling in the southeastern U.S. state.
On Monday, Dec 2, 2019, a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued by the City Manager’s Office from companies interested in being officially designated as the developer and operator of a casino in the independent city in the Commonwealth.
According to the City’s official website…
…RFP responses will be used to determine which company’s vision would be most beneficial to the city, as well as the data needed to make that decision in the event the citizens of Danville have the opportunity to cast their vote and choose whether to allow a casino in the community.
Request for Proposals:
Interested companies may reportedly submit two proposed sites, one of which must use either of two City IDA-owned sites, Schoolfield or White Mill, while a second proposal would be of the company’s choosing.
City Manager, Ken Larking, said that they anticipate interest from multiple companies and that…
“As they compete to do the business here, we will be evaluating several criteria, including their experience, the number of jobs their project would create, and other amenities it would include.”
Larking echoed that it’s the City’s responsibility to ensure that any casino project is implemented in the best possible way.
“Being able to answer the question ‘how’ this new business activity will be implemented goes hand in glove with the overriding question of ‘will’ this new business activity be allowed in the city; which the voters will decide,” Larking said.
This past March, legislation that could see the city welcome a private casino gambling operation was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam. In addition to Danville, the Virginia cities of Bristol, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond were included in Substitute Senate Bill 1126 and will be considered for final approval during the next General Assembly session from January 8 – March 7, 2020.
SB1126 authorizes casino gaming in Virginia to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board and set up a study of casino gaming and would also enable voter referenda in the independent city with an estimated population of 40,700, as well as other select cities.
The General Assembly must re-enact the legislation during its coming 2020 session, and if that happens, a series of deadlines must be established. Only certain cities meeting the criteria outlined in the bill would be permitted to add casino gaming.
New Orleans-based consulting firm, Convergence Strategy Group, has been hired by the City to study Danville’s potential as a location to host a private casino gambling operation and will reportedly assist in the evaluation of the RFP responses, which are due on or before 4pm, Monday, January 13, 2020.
Casino impact study:
Meanwhile, the Danville Regional Foundation, which is “focused on transforming the regional economy and creating a prosperous culture,” paid $81,000 to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based community and economic development consulting firm, Fourth Economy Consulting, to conduct a study on the impacts of casino operations in five communities including Shelbyville, Indiana; Dubuque, Iowa; St. Joseph, Missouri; Monticello, New York; and Charles Town, West Virginia.
The findings from the study were presented on Thursday at the Institute for Learning and Research and indicate that Danville could benefit from added tax revenue, visitors and spending:
- between 575 to 3,050 jobs in the casino and surrounding hospitality industries
- between $55 million to $315 million in annual visitor spending at the casino and other businesses
- draw from 180,000 to 2.1 million visitors to the city (between 500 to 6,000 visits per day ) depending on the size of the project
- from $3.2 million to $9.1 million in annual tax revenues, which would include taxes on gaming, meals, real estate, lodging and sales
The annual tax revenue figures include gaming tax revenue for the city ranging from $625,000 from a small casino project and approximately $5.6 million from a larger one. The Fourth Economy report also considered tax rates of 10 percent and 15 percent. It did not, however, detail numbers of gaming positions (slots & table games) or other factors for the two project sizes.
President and Chief Executive Officer for Danville Regional Foundation, Clark Casteel, said…
“We tried very hard to stay objective. We looked at what are the positive impacts, what are the negative impacts,” according to the Danville Register & Bee.
Possible adverse effects:
It wasn’t all roses and sunshine, however, as the study additionally found that a casino project in Danville could also lead to an increase in problem gambling and in crime, as well as jobs that would not pay all of its workers a wage sufficient to live on.
During the Thursday morning presentation, Vice President of Research and Analytics for Fourth Economy, Jerry Paytas, noted that…
“Every industry has its pros and cons. We are not casino experts, we are systems experts.”
The findings suggest that as many as 2,200 residents in Danville and Pittsylvania County could be affected by problem gambling, with as much as $3.2 million in yearly social costs for the region.
In its report, the firm cited a national study conducted from 1977 – 1996 that reportedly found that 8 percent of the crime committed in counties with casinos was assignable to casinos. And that communities with casinos had 765 additional property crimes and 50 more violent crimes per 100,000 people, each year.
“We are not trying to predict crime,” Paytas said. “We are looking at the range of possible outcomes.”
It also found that nationally, two-thirds of the casino workforce’s average wage is less than $15 an hour, which is $9 less than the hourly living wage for a one-adult, one-child, household in Danville.
Bristol, Portsmouth & Norfolk:
Danville’s RFP comes on the heels of project developers (The United Company) for a proposed casino in the Virginia city of Bristol naming Hard Rock International as their operator of choice for the proposed Hard Rock Casino Bristol.
After this summer scrapping plans to build a casino on the Elizabeth River, Portsmouth has instead opted for a casino to be part of a proposed entertainment district to be located inland at the Victory Village site near Victory Boulevard.
Meanwhile, on September 24, the Norfolk City Council voted in favor of a deal with the Pamunkey Native American Tribe to build a casino near Harbor Park, after earlier in the month having agreed to terms that would see the city sell the tribe the land for about $10 million.