A “transformational economic development” has been pledged by Rush Street Gaming, as the operator looks ahead with much excitement to its development in the Virginian city of Portsmouth.

The $300m Rivers Casino Portsmouth, which the group says will anchor the all-new Entertainment District planned for Victory Boulevard, gained the approval of voters in November 2020, becoming one of a number of gaming establishments to be awarded the green-light following voter referendums. 

The decision to permit casino gaming was also made in three other Virginia cities, with Norfolk, Bristol and Danville giving the nod. Operating partners on those developments will be the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Hard Rock International and Caesars Entertainment, respectively.

Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe last year hailed “a great day” for the region as voters said yes to the project, praising “an excellent developer and operator of world-class destination casinos, with a track record of keeping promises, community support, and job creation”.

Over two months on and CasinoBeats has been speaking to Jacob Oberman, senior vice president of development for Rush Street Gaming, who first looked back at being selected as the operating partner for the development,

“We were extremely humbled and honoured to be chosen as the operating partner for the Portsmouth casino project,” he says. 

“We understand the importance of becoming a part of the community”

“The city has been an excellent partner and the community has been very welcoming. We appreciate the overwhelming support of Portsmouth voters to invite us into their community.”

The new Rivers Casino includes plans for a hotel, indoor and outdoor concert venues, conference space, multiple restaurants and more. Rivers Casino’s gaming floor will feature a wide variety of slots, table games, a poker room and a BetRivers Sportsbook. 

It has previously been asserted that “collaboration with our host community” is a hallmark of the Rush Street philosophy, Oberman continued by explaining how the facility will adhere to this: “Rush Street Gaming has already begun reaching out and listening to Portsmouth community stakeholders. 

“We understand the importance of becoming a part of the community and being a strong corporate citizen. A robust community engagement plan is under way. We look forward to cultivating and sustaining relationships with the Portsmouth and greater Hampton Roads community.

“Our track record demonstrates how Rush Street Gaming properties bring economic vitality to communities. That’s not just the jobs we offer but we’re a catalyst for additional investment. For example, our Philadelphia property transformed that corridor. 

“Other businesses opened there after we arrived and now it’s a thriving community. We’ve seen similar success in other communities where we have properties – Chicago area, Pittsburgh and Upstate New York.”

We were extremely humbled and honoured to be chosen as the operating partner”

Before continuing on this theme to elaborate upon what the project means for the city of Portsmouth, and what he envisages the long-term benefits to be: “Rivers Casino Portsmouth is a transformational economic development investment for the city of Portsmouth. Rivers Casino Portsmouth, a $300 local investment, will anchor the all-new Entertainment District planned for Victory Boulevard. 

“Rivers Casino Portsmouth will bring 1,300 permanent jobs and 1,400 temporary construction jobs to Hampton Roads—with a Portsmouth First commitment to hiring and contracting, along with a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the project. The property is projected to generate more than $16m in new annual tax revenues for Portsmouth.”

As previously alluded to, a number of casino resorts have been approved across the state, but how will this transformation benefit the region? And how will Rivers Casino Portsmouth differ, and in many respects rise above, those other entities?

“Hampton Roads is a strong brand in the hospitality industry,” Oberman concluded. “Rivers Casino Portsmouth will certainly contribute in a meaningful way to that industry by diversifying the tourism product mix – Colonial Williamsburg, the beaches, live entertainment and gaming all work together to strengthen the regional economy.

“We believe Rivers Casino Portsmouth will complement these other amenities and drive new out-of-town tourists keeping in mind there is no gaming in the eastern part of North Carolina or South Carolina.”