HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— Two casinos are coming to two towns separated by only one tunnel.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is building a casino in Norfolk near Harbor Park. The plan is to break ground in early spring and finish the project by the end of 2022.
Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming plans to build Rivers Casino Portsmouth on Victory Boulevard around the same time.
Will it be an economic boom or bust? Experts says there’s a possibility for both scenarios to play out.
Bob McNab, economics professor at Old Dominion University, says success for the casinos will lean on the ability of the region to attract tourist dollars, which is a strength for the area, but ultimately could impact the bottom line for other local businesses.
“If someone is coming to Virginia Beach to relax, are they going to drive to Norfolk to gamble? Are they going to drive across to Portsmouth to gamble? And with that spending that they are now doing in a casino, is that being taken away from me, a restaurant, bar or other retailer in the region?”
The casinos will also have to contend with competing for much of the same traffic in the region.
“If you have casinos in Hampton Roads, in Portsmouth and now likely in Danville and horse racing in Richmond and casinos in Maryland, the casino space it’s becoming quite crowded,” said McNab.
The City of Portsmouth says it is confident the region can support two casinos and look forward to creating a regional draw for our out-of-town guests.
In a competitive landscape, McNab says the businesses could benefit from joining forces and marketing together.
“If we don’t have a significant attraction of new visitors that go to these casinos, then there’s only going to be room for one,” said McNab
McNab says the advantage would go to whoever gets the first casino up.
It’s a gamble, but only time will tell if either city made the right bet.