Caesars ups the ante on Danville casino
Since its approval by Danville voters in November 2020, plans for a casino in the city have shifted.
In August 2022, Caesars Entertainment Inc. announced a partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Together, they upped the size and scope of Caesars Virginia, increasing their investment from $400 million to $650 million.
They’re also planning to open a temporary casino at the former Dan River Inc. Schoolfield mill site this summer, according to a third-quarter earnings call by Caesars President and Chief Operating Officer Anthony Carano. Company officials declined to share details, but Danville City Manager Ken Larking confirmed plans.
“Based on conversations that I’ve had with the Caesars team … they’re planning … a temporary casino, but they are waiting for the lottery to give approval for the license,” Larking says, adding that it could open in July. Caesars broke ground in August 2022 on the permanent casino, which is slated for a 2024 opening adjacent to the temporary casino site.
Cory Blankenship, EBCI’s secretary of the treasury, says all necessary materials for the temporary casino have been submitted to the Virginia Lottery Board. As of November 2022, the board had not scheduled action.
As for the permanent resort casino, Caesars appears bullish on its success, now building 500 hotel rooms, up from its originally proposed 300 rooms. The hotel will also feature a spa, a pool, bars, a 2,500-person entertainment venue and 40,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. The casino will have at least 1,300 slots, 85 live game tables, 24 electronic table games, a poker room and sportsbook.
Part of the increased $250 million investment is due to cost escalation of construction materials, Blankenship says, but he adds that investors also increased the project’s scale because of the strength of the market.
“Following COVID-19 pandemic closures, we found that regional gaming markets across the country recovered more quickly than anticipated,” Blankenship explains. “We are confident that market conditions — regional population, consumer demographics, proximity to other gaming markets and other variables — are favorable to support an expanded scope to the Danville project.”
Ordinarily, Blankenship says, the EBCI wouldn’t have supported opening a temporary casino. With this project, though, he believes it’s the right move. “The temporary facility is really going to help us buy down some of that cost escalation,” he says.