PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth is looking to a Chicago-based developer to help bring a proposed casino to fruition.

On Monday, City Council unanimously voted to approve a “memorandum of understanding” with Rush Street Gaming, moving forward with negotiations for the project. The motion passed 6-0, with Mayor John Rowe absent.

The proposed casino facility is now planned for 50 acres in the area of I-264 and Victory Blvd next to Tidewater Community College. The once proposed home of the “Victory Village” mixed use development is expected to have the following:

  • 400,000 square foot gaming and entertainment facility with a 3,000 seat performance venue, restaurants and meeting space
  • 3,000 space parking garage
  • 4-star hotel
  • 30 restaurant & retail outlets
  • Movie theater

And it comes as Norfolk, Portsmouth’s neighbor, plans to build its own casino, though at the dismay of some city residents who say the deal is being rushed.

Rush Street currently operates four casinos in the U.S.: two in Pennsylvania, one in New York and another in Illinois.

“First and foremost, we’re real estate developers with a strong track record of successfully collaborating with our host communities,” said Neil Bluhm, chairman and co-founder of Rush Street Gaming.  “We choose our projects very carefully, and we knew right away the Victory Boulevard location would be ideal.  Portsmouth is central to the region, and the site itself is large with the potential to include a multitude of hospitality and entertainment uses, is well positioned in a development corridor with retail, superior infrastructure, and immediate highway access from multiple directions.”

Portsmouth officials said they chose Rush Street for its focus on employees and community engagement, as well as its commitment to diversity and inclusion. In a press release, Portsmouth officials said Rush Street contributes millions annually to minority and women-owned businesses.

At this time casino gambling is still illegal in Virginia. Though recommendations from a state-funded study from Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, set to be unveiled next week, could lead to policy change in the General Assembly.

If state legislators do approve casino gambling, Portsmouth citizens would then vote on whether or not to have the casino in the city.

Background: Portsmouth kills deal to build waterfront casino, now looking to build at I-264 and Victory Blvd.

WAVY’s Brett Hall is at city council chambers now and will have updates later this morning. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the proposal.