PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — After lots of anticipation and a slight delay, Rivers Casino Portsmouth is now officially open.
It’s located at 3630 Victory Boulevard, just south of I-264 about three miles from Olde Towne Portsmouth, and opened to the public on Monday, Jan. 23. The ceremony included a performance from the Norfolk State Spartan Legion marching band.
Watch the groundbreaking ceremony below:
Before you go, WAVY has compiled a guide with answers to frequently asked questions about Virginia’s first free-standing casino, and some lesser known and fun facts you’ll want to keep in mind.
1 thing to know off the top: Smoking is allowed on the casino floor
Smoking is allowed across the entire main casino floor, something several patrons at a testing event on Thursday, January 19 noted was an issue for them. Several more people who spoke with WAVY on Monday said they wouldn’t return if the smoking continues to be allowed.
Though other areas of the facility are non-smoking, including all of the restaurants, the BetRivers Sportsbook, poker room and music venue The Sound Bar.
Casino gaming facilities were among the few exceptions listed in the 2009 Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act that banned smoking in public places.
Fun facts before you go
- It’s the first freestanding casino in Virginia history, after Portsmouth approved gaming in 2020 by referendum. State Sen. Louise Lucas worked since the 1990s to bring a casino to her city.
- Virginia’s first temporary casino opened last July in Bristol, it’s not considered permanent like Portsmouth’s.
- Portsmouth’s casino is open 24/7, and there’s no last call for alcohol. Parking is also free.
- The top amount you can win before being taxed? $1,200. With any prizes above that you’ll have to sign a form and pay taxes.
- The entire facility cost more than $300 million to build and the casino itself is 50,000 square feet. There are 1,448 slot machines, 57 table games, and 24 poker tables.
- It can fit about 10,000 people, according to the fire marshal.
- The groundbreaking for the facility was in December 2021.
- Six restaurants, including a steak and seafood house unique to Portsmouth, are listed on the casino’s website, but food is also available in areas such as the Sportsbook and at the TopGolf Swing Suite. Yard House, which has a location at Virginia Beach Town Center, is the only restaurant not open yet.
- The facility’s expected to bring in about $12 million to $16 million a year in tax revenue for Portsmouth, city officials say, through roughly 6% of the casino’s adjusted gross revenue — – total wagering minus total paid-out winnings.
- It was originally supposed to open on Sunday, January 15, but the opening was pushed back to Monday, January 23 as they worked to test and verify new gaming equipment.
- The facility currently employs about 1,100 people.
What games are available?
The casino has everything from the classic table games such as blackjack and craps to “penny slots” for those not looking to spend big.
Table games include:
- Texas Hold ‘Em
- Top Flush
- 3-card poker
- Free bonus blackjack
- 4-card fever
Remember the dedicated poker room is smoke-free. Unlike the 24/7 main casino, it’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
WAVY’s Brett Hall discussed the games and what first-timers should expect ahead of the January 23 opening. Watch the video below:
What if I don’t want to gamble?
There are several entertainment options in addition to the restaurants if you’re not into gambling:
- TopGolf Swing Suite, where you can play multiple games in addition to golf on a huge simulator. It also includes an old-school arcade and a DJ booth.
- The Sound Bar is an intimate music venue with live music multiple nights per week.
- The Event Center: This large space will host “unforgettable performances from legendary entertainers, outrageous shows from national comedians, thrilling live sporting events and more” and is only open for events. No scheduled events have been announced at this time.
What safety measures are in place?
Winners can have someone escort them to their vehicle, officials say, especially if they win big. There’s also a new police substation at the casino and security plans are in place, Portsmouth’s mayor said.
“One of the big things we discuss was active shooter,” said Mayor Shannon Glover. “It is a big open area. Making sure from the point of entry that people are checked, that bags are checked, that we have all the security features in place that will enable us to ensure that the inside environment is a totally safe environment.”
The parking lot is expansive, but officials reported early issues with getting into the parking lot during the soft opening due to construction equipment and plants taking up spaces. There’s also still no valet service at this time.
What about the hotel that was proposed?
Casino developer Rush Street Gaming had said it was committed to building a hotel at the casino, with one featured prominently in early marketing material. But at this time, there’s still no timetable for when a hotel could be built.
Mike Tobin, senior vice president for Rush Street Gaming, said back in 2021 that Rush Street was still studying the Hampton Roads hotel market and what was needed for the project to be successful. This came after 10 On Your Side uncovered that Rush Street wasn’t required to immediately start building the hotel because Norfolk voters approved their own casino and hotel in a referendum on the same day as Portsmouth.
The future of the Norfolk casino, planned for the banks of the Elizabeth River right next to Harbor Park, is still up in the air. Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said back in December that a lot of work is still occurring behind the scenes.
Currently, the closest hotels to Portsmouth’s casino are about two miles away. The casino’s website also lists two recommended hotels, the Renaissance hotel on the waterfront in Olde Towne Portsmouth about four miles away, and the Glass Light Hotel across the water in downtown Norfolk.
For WAVY’s full coverage of the Rivers Casino Portsmouth, visit our dedicated page on WAVY.com.