DANVILLE, Va. (WNCN) — The newest casino in Virginia will open Monday close to the North Carolina state line, as leaders in the Tar Heel State weigh what steps they should take in response.
Caesars Virginia will welcome customers at a temporary site in Danville while construction is underway on their permanent resort which is expected to open at the end of next year.
“We’re gonna attract customers from all around, certainly within the general region here, Virginia and North Carolina, but from really all around different communities. We’re really excited to provide an asset here that we’re really proud of,” said Chris Albrecht, general manager of Caesars Virginia.
The temporary site features more than 700 slot machines, table games, and sports betting. Caesars invited news organizations to see the site Friday.
Albrecht said Caesars has hired about 400 people already and plans to at least double that number as they prepare to open the permanent site.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the demand that this business will drive and the customers and where they’ll come from here in Danville. We’re really excited to get that in motion next week,” he said.
The Danville casino is one of four opening in other parts of the state after voters in each of those communities approved building them. There are already casinos open on the Virginia-Tennessee border in Bristol. Hampton Roads region has one in Portsmouth with an additional one expected to open in Norfolk.
In North Carolina, state lawmakers say they’re closely watching what’s happening and what impact the new casinos will have.
“There is a legitimate concern of the impact the multiple casinos that the folks in the Commonwealth of Virginia are placing right along the North Carolina border,” Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) recently told CBS 17. “The real population centers are south of Danville in North Carolina. So, I think there’s a legitimate concern of a drain from North Carolina into Virginia: of dollars, of business, of people.”
A conservative group called Greater Carolina recently released a study by Spectrum Gaming that looked at the potential of North Carolina adding three more casinos. There are currently three casinos on tribal land, two of which are in western North Carolina and one of which is in Cleveland County, about 35 miles from Charlotte.
The study found an estimated “casino leakage to Virginia” of about $259 million annually in gross gaming revenue.
It also considered North Carolina allowing casinos in: Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties. Spectrum estimates about $1.6 billion in gross gaming revenue could be generated.
When asked if he’s endorsing the idea of additional casinos in North Carolina, Berger said he’s “endorsing the idea that there are things that we should be concerned about in the context of what’s happening in Virginia.”
He went on to say, “Whether or not gaming is something like that, it’s worth exploring.”
The House passed a bill earlier this year legalizing mobile sports betting, which is now pending in the Senate.
Brandy Lynch, interim director of the Person County Economic Development Commission, said she views the new casino in Danville as a positive thing.
She pointed out many people traveling to the casino from North Carolina would pass through Person County, and the casino is providing jobs to people in her community. Roxboro is about a 40-minute drive to Danville.
“We have lots of recreation, lots of shops, lots of restaurants in Person County that it will bring business to,” she said. “And, we are so close to Virginia and we pull from their workforce, and they pull from our workforce. To me, what’s good for them is good for us as well.”