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The City Council on Tuesday night listened to a presentation from a study of Danville’s potential as a location hosting a private casino gambling operation. Such an operation, according to the presentation, could produce gross gaming revenues of $233.8 million to $363.5 million, depending on the scale of the casino and the location.
Also, the projections show direct jobs would range from 1,482 to 2,377 full-time equivalents, payroll would range from $47.5 million to $75.7 million, and annual tax revenue would range from $5.94 million to $9.93 million. The tax revenue would consist of gaming, city sales, hotels, and meals taxes.
The information was presented by Scott Fisher, co-founder and managing partner of Convergence Strategy Group, which is a New Orleans-based consulting firm with more than 35 years of professional experience casino and resort-related planning services.
City Manager Ken Larking said the firm was hired because Danville is under consideration by the General Assembly as one of a few cities that could be given an opportunity to vote in a local referendum on allowing a developer to construct a resort and casino.
“The reason we felt like it would be important to have outside expertise to assist us with this process is that, frankly, no one in the City has any expertise at all in casinos,” Larking said. “…. It is important on such a sensitive issue and one that would have a high impact on our community to have someone with knowledge on the subject that could provide us with the information necessary to make key decisions at the appropriate time.”
In addition to the study, Larking said the firm is assisting Danville in discussions with casino operators.
“We anticipate that there will be multiple operators that are interested should it be allowed in Danville,” Larking said. “As they (operators) compete to do the business here, we will need their (Convergence Strategy Group) expertise to help us evaluate the various proposals at that point. With their help, we want to make sure that we implement it in the best way possible should the citizens of Danville have the opportunity to vote and choose to allow it in our community.
“Our job is not to say on behalf of citizens whether this (a casino gambling operation) happens or doesn’t happen, but we do have a role and a responsibility to make sure that should it happen that it gets implemented in the most effective way possible.”
The presentation was made at a special work session, which River City TV aired live on its Facebook page. River City TV posted the meeting on its Facebook page so that citizens can view a replay.
The study analyzed the potential for gaming at four locations. The locations were the White Mill in the River District, the Schoolfield industrial site on West Main Street that once house Dan River Mills, the Piedmont Drive retail corridor, and an unnamed highway site. The highway site was unnamed because it would send a signal to potential casino operators that city officials prefer a certain site.
The study also analyzed the potential for a historical horseracing facility.
For casino gambling, Fisher studied two operations, with one being a destination resort scale casino; and the other, a moderate scale casino.
He described a destination resort scale casino as one that would include 2,500 slot machines, 100 table games, approximately 325 hotel rooms, and multiple food and beverage, and resort amenities.
A moderate scale casino, Fisher said, would include 1,200 slot machines, 60 table games, approximately 225 hotel rooms, and food and beverage, and limited amenities.
Fisher said the city has no nearby competition for drawing customers to a casino here. Most customers would come from North Carolina, especially from the southeast.
However, if North Carolina allowed the presence of casinos to expand in its state, that could pose a threat to Danville, Fisher said. Revenue projections for a large casino resort in the city could drop by half if that were to happen, especially if casinos were to open in Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, he said.
Also, in his presentation, Fisher addressed questions about the impact casinos would have on crime. He said interviews were conducted with public safety officials in 12 cities similar in size to Danville.
“The result was pretty universal that the impacts were not felt,” Fisher told councilmembers.
Earlier this month, Danville residents approved a referendum to allow a historic horse racing facility in Danville. Fisher’s study looked at two scenarios:
A facility such as the White Mill with 600 devices and no table games would bring in nearly $59 million in gaming revenues in 2022 and $4 million in local gaming tax revenues, according to the study.
A smaller off-track betting facility with 150 machines would bring in gaming revenues of between $16 million and $18 million in 2022, with $1.1 million to $1.2 million in gaming taxes.