The sluggish economy, the stubborn supply problems and the many century-old concrete postpone the opening date of the Danville casino.
Caesar’s Virginia’s Robert Livingston gave Danville City Council an update on his half-billion-dollar casino and resort on the former Schoolfield site on Tuesday. “We’ve seen supply chain issues and other market forces continue to wreak havoc on prices,” Livingston said. “But none of this has dented our commitment to Danville, which remains as strong as ever.”
In addition to the economy, he says there are challenges in transforming the old mill complex into a state-of-the-art resort and casino complex. “Apparently at the time, if there was something that needed to be plugged, they would say, ‘Let’s just pour concrete in the hole.’ So we dig a lot of concrete on this site.
Initial plans were for an opening before the end of 2023. Livingston says that won’t happen. “We remain confident that this project will open in 2024. And we will share a revised opening goal as soon as we feel confident enough to make that decision,” Livingston said.
Caesar’s made the city an upfront payment of $20 million shortly after Danville voters approved the casino referendum in November 2020. And Livingston says future payments to the city will continue as planned. “Beginning in September 2023, Caesar’s will be obligated to make a minimum annual payment of five million dollars, on a pro rata basis, even if the casino has not yet opened. These payments will be made in quarterly installments.
In the meantime, Livingston says crews will spend the rest of the summer dismantling the old finishing plant, while preparing to lay the foundation for the station. “Demolition at the finishing plant, which began in March, will continue through the summer. I guess back then they built it to last,” Livingston said. “The good news is that Whiting-Turner (the general contractor) will be able to prepare new construction while demolition continues.”
Caesar’s has already begun local outreach efforts before the first brick was laid at the casino complex. Last week, they paid for a $1.6 million fully equipped ladder truck that will be owned by the Danville Fire Department. This was part of the service agreement between the city and Caesar’s. They have also entered into discussions with the Danville rescue team regarding the purchase of a new EMS vehicle. It will cost several hundred thousand dollars. Caesar’s also supports Averett University in the development of a hotel management program.
Livingston says Caesar’s has already launched workforce development efforts. Last month, they took a group from Danville to a Caesar-owned casino and resort in Cherokee, North Carolina. This included representatives from Averett, Danville Community College, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, the City of Danville, and Danville Public Schools.
Staffing of the complex with approximately 1,300 workers will begin once construction is well advanced. Livingston said those efforts will resume a few months before the casino’s scheduled opening. He also renewed Caesar’s commitment to hire as many local workers as possible.
“There is a misconception that we are going to hire all the dealers from our other stations across the country. That’s not how it’s gonna work. We’re going to hire people here and train them to become dealers. The vast majority of positions will be filled by people from Danville,” Livingston said. “We are going to look for optimistic and positive people; and we will train them on how to work in a casino.
They hope to hold an official inauguration in about a month.