Caesars wins bid in Danville casino project
$400M casino expected to bring 1,300 jobs, $30M in annual revenue
After taking bids from several companies, Danville officials announced Monday that the city is in negotiations with Caesars Entertainment to be the preferred operator of a Danville-based casino. Voters will still need to approve the casino in a November local referendum.
The $400 million resort is proposed for the former Dan River Mills industrial complex in Schoolfield, with plans for up to 500 hotel rooms, a 35,000-square-foot conference center, a 2,500-seat live entertainment venue, and would include multiple restaurants and bars. In the casino, there will be 2,000 slot machines, 75 table games, 16 poker tables and a sportsbook, according to a news release from the city. The project also would create 1,300 jobs, the city says, which would pay wages between $35,000 and $47,000 annually.
The project is expected to be finished in 2023, producing 900 construction jobs.
The Danville casino is estimated to generate more than $30 million in annual revenue from gaming taxes and supplemental payments to the city, as well as $4 million in real estate, meals, sales and hotel taxes, according to a city news release. The proposal includes at least $20 million in upfront payments to the city for land acquisition and other public investments.
City Manager Ken Larking said in a statement that Danville expects to use the upfront funds for a new police headquarters and to spur private investment.
Danville is one of five economically challenged cities across the state granted approval by the Virginia legislature this year to open one casino each, provided that investors agree to put at least $300 million into each project and that city councils and voters approve. The other cities are Richmond, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Bristol; all but Portsmouth have casino projects moving forward, including two involving the Pamunkey Tribe in Norfolk and Richmond. Developers in Bristol are working with Hard Rock International, which will be an equity partner in the casino if approved by Bristol voters this fall.
Earlier this year, Danville officials met privately with casino companies bidding on the project. In Sunday’s Danville Register & Bee newspaper, Caesars competitor Peninsula Pacific Entertainment and a company interested in purchasing Danville’s White Mill building purchased a two-page ad asking readers to support a casino at the former textile factory building on the Dan River.
Schoolfield is the former site of a village for White Mill workers and has been a target for redevelopment similar to downtown Danville, which has seen historic industrial buildings transformed into residential and retail space.
“Ideally, both the Schoolfield and White Mill sites will be redeveloped as a result of this project,” interim Director of Economic Development Corrie Bobe said in a statement. “As a Danville native, I know how important the redevelopment of the White Mill is to our collective sense of pride.”
She added that Schoolfield is a “more challenging” development project than the mill. “It makes sense to let the private sector take on the total cost of that site while using some of the additional revenue to encourage private development of the White Mill,” Bobe said.
Caesars Entertainment, which started in 1937 in Reno, Nevada, has 37 properties in the United States. The final decision on the casino’s branding has not yet been made, a city spokesman said.
“Caesars is pleased to emerge from a highly competitive process as the unanimous choice by the Danville City Council to build and operate a first-class casino resort in the city,” Caesars CEO Tony Rodio said in a statement. “We look forward to working with city officials, as well as the people of Danville, on the next steps to advance a project that will benefit the city for many decades to come.”