PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — City officials are placing big bets on the new Rivers Casino bringing big bucks and an economic boost to Portsmouth — but some experts say that might not necessarily be in the cards.
The casino is expected to bring in $16 million in tax revenue, says Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.
“That will come back to the City of Portsmouth. And that’s huge, when you think about a city that we live on about 56 cents on the dollar. It’s going to draw people to Portsmouth. It also means that when people come to Portsmouth, they’re gonna spend dollars,” he said.
At nearby Tony’s Crab & Seafood, the staff is already preparing for more foot traffic.
“More orders. More inventory. More fish, more seafood, more shrimps, more scallops,” said manager Duien Nguyen.
But at least one economic expert tells us — the big boost for businesses may not be in the cards.
“If you’re adjacent to the casino, you’ll notice increased traffic. But you should not think of it as a transformative effect over the long run,” said Bob McNab, ODU economics professor.
“It’s not going to be a solution to solve all the problems. It’s not gonna be a homerun. Think of it more like a single or a double. And now you can start putting those together to score more runs over time,” he said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, McNab predicts the impact will be most noticeable in Portsmouth. But as far as the casino’s impact on the greater Hampton Roads region, the jury is still out.
“Casinos are competitors. They’re going to attract business from movie theaters and restaurants and other establishments in the area, and so that money can only be spent at one place at one time. If you’re spending it at the casino, you’re not spending it other places,” he said.
What will make a difference, is if the casino can attract tourists from other states to visit Virginia and spend their money.
“That changes the story. The evidence is still out on that one,” he said.