Watch: Portsmouth officials announce casino partnership

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - City leaders announced a partnership with Rush Street Gaming to build and develop a casino in the city.

The partnership was announced on Monday morning at at the City Council Chamber following a city council work session.

Officials said the City of Portsmouth wants to build an entertainment district at the Victory Village site near Victory Boulevard.

“This partnership is a very exciting thing for Portsmouth,” said Portsmouth Mayor John L. Rowe. “Rush Street Gaming, led by Neil Bluhm and his team, has an impeccable track record of more than 20 years in the gaming industry. They’ve changed the way communities look at gaming and they understand Portsmouth’s vision for an integrated Entertainment District at Victory Boulevard.”

Portsmouth City Officials said they were drawn to the Rush Street Gaming commitment to community development and culture of caring, starting with their employees. They added that all Rush Street Gaming properties have been voted a top workplace by the team members who work there.

Additionally, each destination casino has a customized and localized community engagement program called “Rivers Gives” that empowers local employees to support area nonprofits and helps to seamlessly integrate it with surrounding neighborhoods.

Still, there remain several hurdles before a casino is built. Next week, a state committee will announce the results of a study into the impact of gambling in Virginia.

Then, legislation legalizing gambling will have to pass in the General Assembly. After that, people in Portsmouth will vote in a referendum election on whether they support a casino. If both of those happen, city leaders say groundbreaking on a casino could happen in January 2021. It would be 2024 before they could operate the proposed project.

The City of Norfolk also has plans to put a casino in Downtown Norfolk, but the developer believes both could work.

"I believe we could work with another casino, but I believe ours would be the premiere casino in the area because we will develop a better project and we also have a great site," said Bluhm.

Related: Legislation would permit Pamunkey Indians to open resort casinos in Virginia 

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