DANVILLE, Va. – Danville city leaders put pen to paper Thursday afternoon and signed a development agreement with Caesars Entertainment to bring a new casino to the city.
“I’m honored to be here on such a momentous day,” said Tom Reeg, the CEO of Caesars Entertainment.
The deal marks a $400 million investment. Caesars Entertainment Strategic Advisor Tony Rodio said the casino will create an economic boost for the city.
“For us to partner with the city to continue to be another catalyst and continue the movement forward I think is great,” said Rodio.
That new casino is slated to be built at the old Dan River Mills Schoolfield site. The casino and resort is also going to have space for a live concert venue, high-end restaurants, hotel, pool and spa, and conference center.
Upfront, Caesars promised to give the city $15 million. They also plan to hire 1,300 full-time employees at $15 an hour minimum and buy the city a firetruck and ambulance.
“It’s going to have really almost an outlandish impact on our ability to provide services to our community and really make a difference for our people,” said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.
Larking said Danville could build a new police headquarters and upgrade schools with all the new tax revenue the casino would generate for the city: About $38 million every single year.
The city brought in Convergence Strategies to look at the impact a casino would have on the city, including on crime rates. They found that the new development wouldn’t be any different than any other developments, for example, building a Walmart. While there could be more instances of petty theft, they don’t expect anything major.
“We found that the viewers of crime are a bit overblown and so we’re relatively confident that crime should not be an issue here in Danville,” said Suzanne Leckert from Convergence Strategies.
The project isn’t quite a done deal. Citizens will have to vote on a special referendum on the ballot on November 3. For people who worry their vote won’t even matter because Danville leaders have already signed the agreement, Larking and Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones disagree.
“Their vote absolutely does count,” said Larking. “I’m not telling people how to vote. All we’ve done is let them know what they’re voting on.”
“We’ve been saying from Day 1: It’s all about the citizens,” said Jones. “And we’re saying it today: This is all about the citizens. This is bringing more clarity for the citizens of Danville and hopefully when they get to the polls they can decide which way they want to vote.”