PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth is hopeful that the new Rivers Casino can change the city’s social and economic landscape, and while early patrons noted many positives with the facility, others had concerns about parking and the smoking allowed inside.

Following the Thursday night charity event testing ahead of Monday’s grand opening, Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke had been sent scores of mostly positive messages about the casino. But one she hadn’t heard had to do with the ability of patrons to smoke inside the casino.

10 On Your Side has received comments and inquiries about people who have been surprised with the smoking that is allowed indoors at the casino. As you entered the main gaming room Thursday you could smell smoke. 

“I haven’t heard anything about smoking,” Lucas-Burke said. “People were having so much fun they weren’t thinking of smoking yesterday, so I got no complaints about smoking at all.”  

Anticipating the smoking issue, the General Assembly in 2009 changed Virginia code to say that smoking may be permitted “in any portion of a facility licensed to conduct casino gaming … Any restaurant within a facility licensed to conduct casino gaming shall comply with the provisions of this section.”

Casino General Manager Roy Corby outlined the areas where people could smoke inside.

“The casino floor, the whole casino floor is smoking,” Corby said. “The non-smoking areas are the poker room, the sports book, all the restaurants, and the sound bar.”


Standing outside the Rivers Casino you could see the work crews busy putting the finishing touches on the casino, which Portsmouth is betting will lift its status socially and financially. 

“You know that term, the saying if you build it, they will come? So, this is here now and (Portsmouth) took the biggest chance, so we can put other things along these corridors to enjoy as well,” Lucas-Burke said.

Lucas-Burke said she the messages she has received champion the atmosphere, environment and the food in the casino.

The food, indeed.

Lucas-Burke said Rivers Casino Admiral’s Steak House & Seafood restaurant is a stunning success.

“They said the lamb chops were amazing,” Lucas-Burke said. “The food was amazing, the drinks were amazing, no one was unhappy Thursday. “They were smiling, they were happy, they were courteous with one another.”

But, as with the smoking issue raised by some, not all comments about the casino were positive. 

Parking was an issue Thursday night due in part to a lot of construction equipment and plants and trees taking up parking spots, 

“I will start with the bad,” Lucas-Burke said. “The bad thing was the parking lot. Some people couldn’t get in the parking lot, so that is a good thing, and that’s a bad thing.” 

One surprise, perhaps?

No last call inside the casino.

You can be served alcohol 24/7.

“I always thought there was a last call,” Lucas-Burke said. “I thought every place had a last call, but if you can get a license that states they can serve around the clock, then why not?”

Lucas-Burke said there are only good times ahead, and it would appear Portsmouth is rising on the wings of the Rivers Casino.

“Portsmouth is now a destination,” Lucas-Burke said, “and people coming here are going to the casino as something they will do before they depart this area.

The vice-mayor noted that the big prize at the casino preview was $10,000. 10 On Your Side met a man at a gas station across the street from the Rivers Casino claiming to be the person who won it at the craps table.

“Portsmouth is winning, and we love it,” Lucas-Burke said, “and we are going to continue to win better, and we want people to get into this bet because that is the way they are going to win too.”