Portsmouth, VA – The Portsmouth City Council approved the Casino Development Proposal with Rush Street Gaming on Tuesday, May 26th, 2020, in open session. The Portsmouth Economic Development Authority approved development agreement on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 in preparation for Council.

Portsmouth City Council’s approval of the Proposal designates Rush Street Gaming as the City’s preferred casino gaming operator pending city referendum. The Development Agreement and Proposal are components of a larger package that will go to the Lottery Board in Richmond for approval and certification to allow for the local referendum to proceed. A referendum will then be placed on the local Portsmouth ballot in November for citizens to cast their votes.

 “This development agreement is an important step in the approval process and is very exciting for Portsmouth,” said Portsmouth Mayor John L. Rowe. “Rush Street Gaming, led by Neil Bluhm and his team, has a great national reputation, and they have an impeccable track record of more than 20 years in the gaming industry. They understand Portsmouth’s vision for the Entertainment District beyond the mere presence of the casino. Our teams have worked very closely to forge this agreement in order to bring our combined visions to reality for all of our citizens.”

Along with increased tourism benefits from a new Entertainment District, the City anticipates a number of projected economic benefits from the casino development. As outlined in the state legislation, the minimum investment by Rush Street will be $300 million. This investment will be accompanied by an estimated 1,400 construction jobs, creating many opportunities for local contractors to participate in a large-scale development. There will also be approximately 2,000+ permanent new jobs for the City and region bringing an estimate of $62+ million of annual wages, salaries, and tips plus competitive comprehensive benefits.

“This is a great day for Portsmouth,” said Neil Bluhm, chairman and co-founder of Rush Street Gaming. “We look forward to doing our part in making Portsmouth the dynamic and prosperous city we all know it can be. Rush Street Gaming will not let the residents of the city down.”

The Development Agreement and Proposal are components of a larger package that will go to the Lottery Board in Richmond for approval and certification to allow for the local referendum to proceed. A referendum will then be placed on the local Portsmouth ballot in November for citizens to cast their votes.

"Rush Street Gaming welcomes the opportunity to work with the Virginia Lottery Board," said Jacob Oberman, senior vice president of development for Rush Street. “Certainly, there is plenty of work ahead to demonstrate our suitability before the Board, the residents of the city and the Commonwealth at large. We couldn't be more eager to get started."

Headquartered in Chicago, Rush Street Gaming, and its affiliated companies, operate several full-service destination casinos, internet gaming and sports betting, a myriad of restaurants, multiple hotels, several entertainment venues, a television production company and more. The organization has developed and opened four destination casinos in the past decade under the Rivers Casino brand and has created more than 6,000 new quality jobs. All Rivers Casinos are leaders in tax revenue generation in their markets. Overall, Rush Street and its affiliates have invested more than $3 billion of capital in strategic projects across the Midwest and east coast regions.

“The entire Portsmouth team worked tirelessly to bring Rush Street Gaming as our partners in the development and delivery of the Entertainment District,” said Portsmouth City Manager, Dr. L. Pettis Patton. “From the early beginnings of the possibilities to host a casino to the signing of the development agreement, city staff remains steadfast in working toward the goal of making the city of Portsmouth, the first casino not only in our region but in Virginia.”

The Portsmouth Casino Proposal includes a phased project approach, beginning with the development of the casino and an entertainment venue along Interstate 264. This plan allows flexibility for scaling the project and launching with speed.  The development is anticipated to include several varieties of restaurants, a sportsbook, and entertainment opportunities. The approved proposal outlines initiatives for community involvement, minority equity, and workplace diversity to ensure that the casino in Portsmouth is the best place to work and play.

Rush Street Gaming’s recently completed Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady in New York’s Capital Region offers an example of the potential that exists for the Victory Village Entertainment District in Portsmouth. The Schenectady project includes a hotel, indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, restaurants and bars including local concepts. Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady employs approximately 1,100 team members, has already been voted a top workplace and was lauded by the City of Schenectady for driving new tourism business to the region, contributing to a 10.5 percent jump in tourism spending year-over-year. Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady is part of a master-planned development called Mohawk Harbor that includes apartments, condos, townhomes, more dining and bars and another hotel.

“The Casino Development Agreement is a culmination of efforts, and a show of true teamwork,” said Robert D. Moore, Portsmouth Economic Development Director. “We are excited about this step of the process being completed and are looking forward to the Rush Street team taking their information to Richmond. In the meantime, we are continuing to work on the Entertainment District needs, such as traffic and environment analysis, to ensure we maintain momentum. This is a big step, and Portsmouth is ready to continue moving forward.”

Rush Street Gaming will continue working with local, state and regional partners to move the project forward. For more information on the Rivers Casino Portsmouth, to find out how to get involved and to stay up-to-date, please visit: http://riverscasinoportsmouth.com/.