Mason Adams over at Virginia Business talks about the impact of the old mills in Danville closing — mills that once employed 14,000 people and were the backbone of an entire region:
But this November, Danville voters are casting ballots on an economic prospect that could bring approximately 900 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs — all without any traditional economic development incentives. No tax exemptions. No land giveaways. No forgivable performance “loans.”
Instead, Caesars Entertainment Inc. proposes to pay the city more than $20 million for the opportunity to bring a $400 million casino and accompanying resort to Danville. That includes a flat $15 million payment and $5 million for the building site. The company also will pay property and meals taxes, as well as sliding scale taxes on its net gaming revenue. According to a December 2019 study by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), the proposed Danville casino would generate at least $190 million in direct revenue and $51 million in tax revenue annually by 2025.
That has to be outstanding news for Danville’s schools and law enforcement, all of whom are suffering to get by on a shoestring in the wake of the 2007 mill closings, the Great Recession, and now the impact of COVID-19.
Danville is just one of four localities — Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Bristol doing likewise — to consider opening a casino to help beleaguered and struggling localities make ends meet, but worried about the social cost of gambling as well.
Still, proponents are optimistic not just over the economic benefits but the net community impact that casinos will bring to restaurants and other small businesses nearby.
Each of the four localities will be voting to approve gaming on November 3rd. Should any of them fail to pass, the casinos can request another vote from the General Assembly in 2021. Richmond is debating whether to exercise this option next year.