Angie McAdams is not thrilled with the idea of a casino in Danville.
“I’m not really excited about it,” she said during an interview at the Danville Mall on Wednesday afternoon.
A large employer with better-paying jobs requiring higher skills would be more desirable, she said.
“That’s what I would like to see instead of a casino,” said McAdams, 47, who lives in the Mount Hermon area.
Reactions from Dan River Region residents who spoke to the Danville Register & Bee about a possible casino in the city were mixed. Most who spoke on the record expressed opposition.
City officials have expressed support for a casino in Danville because of the potential tax revenue that could be used to address local needs, including the school system.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation March 22 that could bring casinos to Virginia. The bill directs the Joint Legislative and Review Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of casino gaming regulations and submit a report by Dec. 1.
It also establishes the framework for the Lottery Board to oversee gaming and would allow three cities with economic challenges — Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth — to hold referenda on whether to have a casino.
Thirty-nine-year-old Laura Chaleby, who also lives in the Mount Hermon area, said she had a moral issue with casinos.
“Casinos just foster addiction,” she said at the Danville Mall.
While it may be good for the local economy, the choice to bring a casino to Danville would be questionable, according to Chaleby.
“There are a lot of types of industry that could come into Danville,” she added. “Is that one we really want to bring in?”
But a Roxboro, North Carolina, man who would not give his name expressed support.
“It’d be nice to have it nearby,” he said after adding that Cherokee, North Carolina, has casinos.
Would he come to Danville to frequent one here?
“Absolutely,” he said.
Referenda on casinos would also be allowed in Richmond and Norfolk, which have been identified as possible sites for the Pamunkey Indian tribe to establish a casino.
It also stipulates that a gaming license only be issued for projects with a minimum capital investment of $200 million in land, facilities, infrastructure, equipment and furnishings.
However, the legislation must be re-enacted by the General Assembly during its 2020 session and, if it is, establish a series of deadlines.
According to results of a study by Chmura Economics and Analytics in Richmond last year, a casino resort with a hotel, restaurants, entertainment and convention space would bring a one-time economic impact of about $118.7 million and 182 jobs for renovation and construction of a resort in Danville.
The project would generate $12.1 million in local taxes in 2022, and $20.3 million by 2028, according to the employment and fiscal impact analysis.
In 2022, it would generate 2,534 direct and indirect jobs and by 2028, those numbers would grow to 5,426 direct jobs and 1,408 indirect jobs, according to the study. It would have a direct and indirect economic impact of $384.8 million in 2022, and grow to $909 million in direct impact — with another $183 million in indirect impact — by 2028.
Over at Main Street Coffee Emporium downtown on Thursday, 18-year-old Caleb von Eime said a casino would contribute to overspending and increased personal debt.
“It’s going to cause people to spend money they don’t have,” said Von Eime, a Main Street Coffee Emporium employee who lives in Ringgold. “It’s going to drive up debt, borrowing levels.”
In turn, banks may be less likely to get their returns from those who borrow, he said. Crime could also increase, he added.
Two customers at the popular coffee shop said they were all for a casino making its way to the city.
“It’s going to be an economic boost,” said Dave Corp, 70, a Danville resident.
Casino patrons will not only spend money to gamble but frequent restaurants and stay in the city’s hotels, Corp said.
Corp’s wife, Ann Sylves, said she had a good idea where to put a casino.
“White Mill is our first choice,” said Sylves, 63, referring to the empty Dan River Inc. building along the Dan River.
She said she was excited about the potential for jobs a casino would deliver to Danville — and the added dining options that could come with a casino resort.
“I would go to the restaurants and the patios, the views on the river,” she said.
But another customer, 22-year-old Ringgold resident Savanna Hopper, said a casino could bring gambling addiction problems to the city’s population, especially its poor.
“This is just going to be creating issues for a population that doesn’t need that,” Hopper said.
At Food Lion in Ballou Park Shopping Center, 23-year-old Laquandie Kincy said he doesn’t gamble much but takes no issue with a possible casino.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Kincy said as he left the grocery store.
Food Lion employee Aaron Grove, 30, sees both the good and bad aspects of a casino in the city.
“It would bring more jobs,” Grove said, adding that he isn’t into gambling and sees potential negative outcomes.
“There are pros and there are cons to it,” he said.
A Food Lion customer who would not give his name said the city could use a casino, especially with the recent closures in Danville of such big-box retailers as Sears and Kmart.
“It would bring money to the town,” he said. “It would help the economy.”