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City Council on Thursday night voted unanimously to support legislation that would allow a casino resort in Danville if first approved by voters in a local referendum. The legislation will be introduced in the upcoming General Assembly session
Bristol and Portsmouth each passed a similar resolution in September and October, respectively.
A bill if passed by the General Assembly would need a signature from the governor. After that, a local referendum would be scheduled.
Prior to last night’s vote, Mayor Alonzo Jones and other members of City Council stressed that City Council would not be making the final decision on whether a casino resort comes to Danville.
“There is so much misinformation out there,” Jones said. “If this passes the General Assembly, then all people who are registered voters will get an opportunity to cast their vote either ‘yah’ or ‘nay.’”
Vice Mayor Lee Vogler added that the issue of a casino resort operating in Danville should be a choice for citizens to make.
“This is the most significant economic development opportunity Danville has seen in my lifetime,” Vogler said. “We’re talking about nearly 7,000 jobs and over $1 billion into our local economy over the next decade. I believe that we as a City Council owe it to the people of Danville to let them decide if they want to support this or not.”
He continued, saying, “What City Council is doing tonight does not mean that a casino and resort would be built here. It simply means that we are supporting the General Assembly taking the next step in what would ultimately be decided by the citizens of Danville.”
Council members last night they have received citizen feedback on a possible casino resort, with a majority in favor but many opposed.
Del. Danny Marshall, who represents Danville and portions of Pittsylvania and Halifax counties in the Virginia House of Delegates, and United Company of Bristol first pitched the project to City Council in October.
Since then, Chmura Economics and Analytics has prepared independent employment and fiscal impact analysis of a casino resort with hotel, restaurants, entertainment and convention space.
The preliminary Chmura study produced the following numbers:
Several council members pointed out the added revenue generated by a casino resort could pay for much-needed capital projects. For example, a recent study presented by the Danville School Board showed it would take $126 million to renovate four schools in use today that were built in the 1950s.
City Manager Ken Larking said if a bond referendum were approved to borrow $126 million and the interest rate was 3.75 percent, it would result in a debt service of $7 million annually for 30 years. The revenue needed to pay the debt service would equate to 31.4 cents in the real estate tax rate. An increase of 31.4 cents in the tax rate would place Danville above the average for cities in Virginia, he said.
In another matter, City Council granted a special use permit for a commercial recreational establishment and restaurant at 760, 762 and 764 Westover Drive. James C. Shaw requested the permit so that he could to operate a tabletop, virtual reality, Play Station and Xbox gaming room, a small bistro/sandwich shop, and a retail sales establishment.
No one spoke against the proposal.