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Rivers Casino Portsmouth Announces Grand Opening

James Murphy
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  • Rivers Casino Portsmouth has announced their grand opening date as of January 23, 2023.
  • A grand opening date of January 15 was announced in early December.
  • The $300 million-plus project will feature a casino, BetRivers Sportsbook, premier restaurants, a live entertainment lounge, hotel, and event center.

Congratulations to the Commonwealth of Virginia–they now have their first ‘full service permanent casino’ and their first casino not located in a failed shopping mall. The Rivers Casino Portsmouth opened today with much fanfare, or at least what approximates ‘fanfare’ in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The original grand opening date was announced late last year as January 15, 2023. Not a huge surprise that it didn’t open on schedule–opening a gaming property is quite the endeavor even if it’s relatively small by industry standards. As expected, the Virginia Lottery Board approved licensing for the Rush Street Gaming owned and operated casino approximately six weeks ago. Rush Street broke ground on the property in December 2021 and held a ‘topping out’ ceremony earlier this year.

We reported on the highlight of the property–at least for the readership of this website–in an earlier article: a state of the art BetRivers Sportsbook. The sportsbook will be located just beneath the TopGolf Swing Suites and will feature the ‘largest high-def screens in Hampton Roads’. The sportsbook has ticket writers at staffed betting windows along with 27 self serve betting kiosks. Here’s an ‘artists rendering’ of the sportsbook:

BetRivers Sportsbook at the Rivers Casino Portsmouth

Portsmouth, Virginia is part of the ‘Hampton Roads’ area along with near by Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. It is just over three hours (200 miles) from Washington, DC and 90 minutes (just under 100 miles) from Richmond. I’ll try to get some ‘actual’ photos of the sportsbook but it’s in my contract that I only have to travel to a limited number of destinations. Alas, Hampton Roads is not on that list. Sort of like having a NHL contract with a limited list of teams you can be traded to. I do have contacts all over the world so I can hopefully get a legit photo of the sportsbook.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth exterior signage

In November, 2020 voters in the state approved the construction of casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk. The other three casinos in the state are still under construction: Caesars Virginia (Danville), Hard Rock Bristol Resort and Casino, and HeadWaters Resort & Casino (Norfolk). Rivers Casino Portsmouth is the first to open a permanent facility although the Hard Rock Casino Bristol opened a ‘temporary casino’ on July 8, 2022. That casino is located in the old Belk’s department store at an abandoned shopping mall. Seriously.

In addition to the sportsbook, the Rivers Casino Portsmouth has an expansive gaming floor with 1,448 slot machines, 57 table games, and 24 poker tables in a dedicated poker room. The casino will have ten new restaurants and bars, including high-end dining at Admiral’s Steak and Seafood, casual dining at Crossings Café and Asian cuisine at Mian; plus, Slice Pizzeria, Starbucks and more. A new brewpub/restaurant will open later this year called the Yard House, claiming the ‘largest draft beer selection’ in the world. That’s quite a claim in any case, but the goal is to offer the ‘largest quality draft beer selection’ in the world. Top Belmont Station in the American beer epicenter of Portland, Oregon and we’ll talk. If you’re counting bottled beer selection, Belmont Station has 1,400+ brands in stock.

The Event Center, a 25,000 square foot multipurpose grand hall and reception area, will host weddings and galas, conventions and expos, meetings and conferences—and headline performers. In fact, it started hosting events even before the property opened.  On Monday, Jan. 16, the Epsilon Nu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. held its 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Luncheon at The Event Center as the venue’s first-ever event. Rivers Casino Portsmouth supported as the presenting sponsor.

Roy Corby, general manager of Rivers Casino Portsmouth, emphasized that the property is there to serve the community:

“We’re here to serve the community, our guests, and our Team Members. We’ll accomplish that mission by creating a stellar guest experience and becoming the entertainment destination of choice for Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, and visitors to our area.”

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time in Nevada this concept isn’t new to you. For as long as I can recall, gaming properties have doubled as community gathering places. Not sure how comfortable the rest of the country will be with this thanks to the legacy of governments, politicians and regulators treating the gaming industry with as much disdain as the COVID-19 virus. Even though they’re trying to appeal to what is nominally ‘middle America’ (even if it is on the East Coast) it looks like they might need to step up their entertainment game:

Adding to the grand opening festivities were roving magicians, jugglers, acrobats, stilt walkers, cheerleaders, and other performers.

Regional favorites “Seamless Band” and “Better by Tuesday” played for opening-day crowds in The Sound Bar — an intimate stage and lounge area that will host local bands, DJs, and more.

Don’t expect to see A-List DJs like KASKADE spinning at The Sound Bar

They don’t need to offer a lineup like the one at Resort World Las Vegas’ 26,000 square foot nightclub Zouk–which features a ‘murder’s row’ of the top DJs in the world–but no reason to get high school dance level performers either.

There was a morning river cutting ceremony with the usual assemblage of local muckety mucks. in addition to the aforementioned propery GM Roy Corby, the only person in attendance worth mentioning by name is Rush Street Gaming CEO Tim Drehkoff. We hold Drehkoff in such high regard we’re even going to serve up his press release quote:

“We’re excited to join such a vibrant community and to unveil this beautiful entertainment venue for all to enjoy. We’re grateful to the community and to our Team Members for their support, and we’re looking forward to launching this strong economic engine for the region.”

In the gaming industry there are companies that are ‘assets’ and those that are ‘liabilities’. Rush Street Gaming is definitely an ‘asset’. Rivers Casino Portsmouth is the fifth ‘brick and mortar’ gaming property operated by Rush Street Gaming. The others are Rivers Casino Des Plaines, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.

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