Petersburg re-enters Virginia’s fifth casino race, seeking to hold referendum by 2025


Petersburg is re-entering the race for hosting Virginia’s fifth casino. The City Council adopted its legislative wish list Tuesday night, and bringing a gambling resolution to city voters by 2025 is one of six requests. The list claims that Petersburg could see results similar to what Danville and Bristol are now experiencing with the successful openings of Caesars Virginia and Hard Rock casinos.  

“In light of Petersburg’s status as a distressed locality, advancing a casino could provide significant economic relief, like the benefits experienced by Danville and Bristol,” the request reads, as reported by The Progress-Index. “This venture could offer residents employment opportunities that surpass the current median household income of roughly $44,000 per year and individual income of about $26,000 per year.”

Caesars temporary Danville, Virginia casino

According to Danville officials, the Caesars casino that opened in May has generated more than $107.9 million in state gaming revenue and $6.5 million in city tax revenue. For its part, Hard Rock in Bristol has generated $215.7 million in state gaming revenue since its July 2022 opening.

A report from the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission has put Petersburg’s estimated gaming revenue at $204 million annually and local tax revenue at $12.24 million, excluding real estate, machinery and tools, sales, admission, lodging, and meals taxes.

Hard Rock Bristol Casino's gaming floor

The decision comes two weeks after Richmond voters rejected a second referendum that would have set up a $562 million casino and hotel complex on the city’s south side. Two years ago, a similar referendum was narrowly rejected, prompting the capital city to ask for another shot. However, that do-over created friction between Petersburg and Richmond that carried through two legislative sessions and several political battles that ultimately led to Petersburg being shut out of the chase. 

On November 7, 61% of Richmond’s voters said no to the casino project, opening the door for Petersburg to come through. Richmond city administration seemed to resolve itself with the outcome, with Mayor Levar Stoney saying it was time to move on to other initiatives.

In addition to the request for the referendum, Petersburg also wants the General Assembly to eliminate poverty- and tax exemption-based requirements for an eligible host city with a population of more than 200,000. Such a move would eliminate Richmond from future casino consideration, as reported by the above-mentioned media.

Following the meeting, Petersburg spokesperson Joanne Williams released a statement, reported by The Progress-Index, saying that a casino complex “will provide a much-needed economic boost to Petersburg’s flat tax base.”

Legislation that passed in 2019 called for casino referendums in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. Richmond was the only city among the original five to defeat the measure both times it came up.

In addition to Caesars’ Virginia in Danville and Hard Rock in Bristol, Rivers Casino in Portsmouth also is up and running. Norfolk’s planned casino will be a partnership with one of Virginia’s Native American tribes.