Louise Lucas

by James C. Sherlock

Portsmouth has a lot of problems. Look for them to get worse in February when its new casino is scheduled to open.

A key thing you need to know about the casino is that it is the realization of Louise Lucas’ vision. Senator Lucas has spent 22 years promoting a casino in Portsmouth. As if that was just the thing Portsmouth needed to become a successful city.

Her vision was clarified by nearly $50,000 in campaign donations from casino interests.

Introduced in January 2019 by Lucas, Virginia Senate Bill 1126 earmarked commercial casinos for the towns of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth. The legislation also permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build Native American casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth is scheduled to open in February, just across the water or through the tunnels here in South Hampton Roads from the new casino in Norfolk that will open in 2024.

Both were teed up by a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) study required by that legislation prior to the votes of the citizens of those five locations.

The site-specific study done for JLARC by the Innovation Group projects the casino in Norfolk will generate only slightly more revenue than the one in Portsmouth. It forecasts that in 2025, the Norfolk casino would produce about $150 million in total revenue and the Portsmouth site $130 million.

But you would be hard-pressed to find more than a few people who live here in Hampton Roads who believe that will be the revenue split ratio. Or anything close to it.

The Innovation report reports that it measured “Attraction Factors” and included them in its modeling.

Attraction factors can be based on a number of components including branding, the level and effectiveness of marketing efforts, and the level of quality and amenities of a facility. Attraction factors are also adjusted to model the presence of natural and man-made boundaries which impact ease of access and convenience of travel in the market area.

Compare the two site plans. They are seven miles apart. What you see is what the two cities may get.

Norfolk’s Headwaters Resort and Casino

The Norfolk casino will feature up to 3,000 slot machines and 150 table games, and the hotel will offer 300 guest rooms and suites. That is Harbor Park, the home of the Orioles AAA baseball team, and Norfolk Harbor next to the casino/hotel complex.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth

The Rivers Casino Portsmouth is not on a river.  It is being built at I-264 and Victory Blvd next to Tidewater Community College. It is master-planned to allow for a hotel. But the development agreement between the developer and Portsmouth does not require the development of a hotel.  Whether one will ever be built on that site depends upon casino revenue. If one is built, it will have a great view of the community college and the parking lots.

Did I mention the closer of the two casinos to the regional airport on the Norfolk/Virginia Beach border? Or the closer of the two casinos to I-64? Or the closer of the two to the Virginia Beach oceanfront and its tourists?

Attraction factors? But enough on that.

Portsmouth. How about city governance? Norfolk has its issues, but, against stiff competition, Portsmouth is the “sick man” of Virginia.

To illustrate, Portsmouth is on its fifth police chief in four years. Crime? Just what you think. Tourism? Why?

Even people staying and/or dining on the Portsmouth waterfront can take the ferry to Norfolk and back without getting into their cars. They run every 15 minutes until nearly midnight.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Chaotic policing, inflation, a recession and a new casino. Portsmouth.

What could go wrong?

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41 responses to “Portsmouth: Chaos + Casino = Chaos”

  1. vicnicholls Avatar

    She aint known as Sleezy Weezy and Ptroit as Uzi Village for nothing.

  2. Teddy007 Avatar

    Local Casinos kill nearby restaurants and entertainment venues. There is only so much money in a community. Opening a casino just moves the money from restaurants and movie theaters to the casino owners. Also, casinos are one of the few business that can accept stolen money and not have to give it back.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Gambling as a means of laundering money? OMG. Has anybody told the mob that? Huntington Ingalls’ other shipyard in Mississippi was near a couple of joints and the impact on that workforce was an issue. Plenty got underwater (pardon the pun.) Now the fun comes to the Virginia operation.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Gambling as a means of laundering money? OMG. Has anybody told the mob that? Huntington Ingalls’ other shipyard in Mississippi was near a couple of joints and the impact on that workforce was an issue. Plenty got underwater (pardon the pun.) Now the fun comes to the Virginia operation.

      1. Teddy007 Avatar

        Did not mention laundering money but there only so much discretionary spending. All casinos do is move the money from one type of business to another. And since every city seems to have casinos, Casinos do not increase tourism.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Would that the patrons (suckers) stopped when they ran out of discretionary money. Some do but some don’t.

          1. Ken Reid Avatar
            Ken Reid

            Portsmouth is now the most corrupt city in Virginia; it’s the Chicago of the South and it’s largely due to Louise Lucas, who is a political boss,and her daughter, who sits on the city council. They have hired fired and rehired a number of chiefs of police and city administrators, and the worst was in January when, without any vote or discussion, the city paid Lucas $300,000 “settlement” for charges the previous police chief (fired) made against her for interfering with the police trying to protect protesters tearing down a Confederate monument. I wrote about this in Bacon’s and urged AG Miyares to investigate. 2 City Councilmembers have actually appealed to his office to investigate another matter, but I’ve seen nothing from Miyares, although he is impaneling a grand jury in Loudoun to investigate how the schools their botched investigations of sexual assaults on students. Meanwhile, Lucas goes on and on in tweets against Youngkin, etc. and is a kind of media star! It’s undeserved. The Casino will only bring more corruption

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        OTOH, Huntington Ingalls launders tax dollars… and sometimes that’s even dirtier than mob money. See Dominion Va Power.

      3. Lefty665 Avatar

        Plenty got underwater

        Some of them are showing up in barrels as Lake Mead outside Las Vegas shrinks.

  3. I share your pessimism. The casino is a desperate bid to shore up city tax revenues. Insofar as the casino succeeds in siphoning local entertainment dollars from Chesapeake and Suffolk, it might prove to be a net bonus to Portsmouth — and a loss to nearby Chesapeake and Suffolk. I’d love to know what kind of subsidies and tax credits the casino is getting, though. How much is the city on the hook for if the project is a financial bust?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I don’t know. I have a lot more research to do for another article or two in a series on Portsmouth and its casino. That is but one of the questions. Working on it.

      1. Ken Reid Avatar
        Ken Reid

        WAVY TV has had a number of articles about city corruption. Here is mine in Bacon’s https://www.baconsrebellion.com/the-ag-should-investigate-portsmouth-political-corruption/

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Speaking of whirling balls of flaming gases…

    “Things get started this afternoon at the White House. For weeks now, NASA had been planning to release the images all together on the morning of July 12th, but over the weekend, the agency surprised everyone by adding a last-minute White House briefing on July 11th at 5PM ET. Now, President Joe Biden will reveal one of the images first this afternoon, with NASA administrator Bill Nelson providing remarks.”

    The rest tomorrow at https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/#public

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Casinos work incredibly well at cleaning up a waterfront to a distance of 1 block back from the water, and trshing the next 6 blocks. The good news is that the Chesapeake Bay is drought resistant and won’t give up its barrels as quickly as a man made lake.

    1. Carter Melton Avatar
      Carter Melton

      You are exactly right. Just look at Atlantic City…..12,000 miles of neon and gleam on the boardwalk and one block off…..the same shabby, falling -down row houses, darkly lit littered streets and alleys, and sad-looking humanity. Good luck, Portsmouth.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Wasn’t the Kelo eminent domain case about a Casino in Atlantic City?

  6. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Are casinos any less destructive than stores with gambling machines? Racetracks? Sports betting online? Society may be better off with a “death at conception” rule for gambling enterprises which offer little or no socially redeeming value.

  7. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    I suspect Portsmouth will draw from Suffolk, Chesapeake, Franklin, Smithfield, and as far away as Emporia and Roanoke Rapids areas.

    Being on a river means nothing when you are in a room full of slots and tables. Neither of the casinos we go to is anywhere near a river and the Seminoles are obviously doing very well. Haven’t been to Hardrock down the road but they have no river nearby, just I95.

    Best thing our fav has done is go totally non smoking. It’s clean, quiet, well maintained and friendly. We can have a day of fun for the cost of a nice dinner and jug of wine. Free parking and a well patrolled garage included.

    Beats walking around Busch Gardens in the heat or avoiding the crazies on Atlantic Avenue. Do, however miss the Reubins at Mothers’ on Pacific…

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      One thing I mentioned in the article but did not make a point of: the Norfolk Casino is fronted by an Indian tribe and the Portsmouth one is not. I don’t know how that affects the economic prospects of both. But if I had to invest my own money in one, which I would not actually do, it would be Norfolk.

      The Norfolk casino will be only 10 minutes more of a drive for players from the areas you mentioned. If it is much nicer, they might drive a little farther.

      1. John Harvie Avatar
        John Harvie

        Agreed. At least in Florida the Indians, if I may still call them that really know what they are doing.

    2. vicnicholls Avatar

      People in Chesapeake will go to Norfolk. Suffolk knows the reputation and they won’t have to travel far to get to Norfolk. I think there is a Danville? casino? If so, better there than Ptroit.

  8. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Portsmouth would be a great place for a solar farm. 34 square miles of land.
    All problems solved. Lucas gets paid on sunny days.

  9. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Is it possible…asking for a friend… that LL will be in on the grift?
    Also, these are pipe dreams. Gambling doesn’t produce growth. It reallocates money. It would be better in the long run, and for moral hazard reasons, to let capital find something productive…

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      No smart capital will be deployed to Portsmouth. The government is too unstable.

      This casino money may not prove to be smart capital either. I’d hate to be a bank holding the construction note. The codicils on the contract with the city has a lot of off ramps, like the vanished hotel, but probably not enough in the long run after the Norfolk casino opens.

      As I said, we’ll see by 2025.

  10. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Put them anywhere you want and wrap them in the fanciest architecture you can imagine, they all remain sad and pathetic dens of thievery, clipping suckers by the boatload. The few times I’ve walked in one the overwhelming emotion is disgust. They are always a net economic negative. Always. But not for their investors or politicians with their begging bowls, just net negative overall. Five broken dreams and ruined bank accounts for every winner, at least.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Exactly. BTW, I will do a title search on that godforsaken piece of land in Portsmouth and see if I can find out who owned it when the casino bought it. Maybe it was the community college, but I’ll check.

  11. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

    Before weighing in on the merits, I need to ask, “How was Senator Lucas able to broker this deal?” Lucas is despised/disliked by enough legislators to scuttle any project she pushes. Why did the Republicans give in? (Probably because their constituents wanted them to)

    This is bad. Really bad. Need proof? Look no further than Tunica, Mississippi. Whatever your issue, look at Tunica. Poverty, crime, uneducated work force, dependence on Memphis.

    Look at Tunica.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      She got it done because a Senator from SW Virginia thought a casino would provide jobs for his constituents- or something.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    Been to a Casino once in my life with a budget of $50 which was gone in about 5 minutes.

    They are miserable places but they’ve been around quite some time in places you’d think are pretty straight-laced like Iowa and Oklahoma.

    Here’s a list of the top 10 states by the number of casinos in them. Virginia is not exactly a major player.

    Nevada — 334
    Oklahoma — 134
    California — 62
    Colorado — 40
    South Dakota — 39
    Florida — 35
    Mississippi — 35
    Arizona — 34
    Washington — 32
    Michigan — 30

    They are what they are and the politics is smelly no matter who they are nor their ethnicity.

    Beyond that, can’t figure out why there is a blog post about it other than to whack on Lucas and Portsmouth and environs, and Conservative navel-gazing.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      “Can’t understand why there is a blog post about it.”

      Because real people live in Portsmouth. Because they don’t have a newspaper to defend them since the effective collapse of the Virginian Pilot as an investigative reporting organization. Because powerful people who prey on the weak and children need to be held accountable.

      1. vicnicholls Avatar

        I dont see Larry’s posts, but let him know 90K people live in Ptroit. Human beings. They deserve something positive.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        blame it on the media? what happened to Conservative media? Also AWOL?

        Casinos are the norm across many states these days and are you saying that in general these casinos are “powerful people preying on the weak and children ” ?

        You guys kill me sometimes.

        Do you think the Va Lottery “Preys on the weak and children”?
        Liquor stores? what else?

        how about these folks:


        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          In general my answer is yes to most of your questions. You won’t understand why if you live 200 years.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            and it goes the other way also – for you.

            or you can admit we both do understand but don’t agree.

            Conservatives spend way too much time trying to legislate morality and so the world is always a den of inequity to Conservatives, right?

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Ha! Conservative navel-gazing. So which are you Mr. Larry?

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    You can beat up on Louise Lucas all you want but Portsmouth’s problems far predate her. It has long been a working class, gritty ship yard town. During World War II, thousands of workers swarmed into the city from rural Virginia and North Carolina to work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and other defense facilities. In the 1950s, Norfolk launched a massive urban renewal program that run up block after block of forlorn low income housing, lots of which was occupied by minorities. Many had no place to go other than Portsmouth and some occupied cheap, temporary housing leftover from the war. It has long been a gun-toting, drug and crime place. For decades, White leaders failed to do much about it. They were more interested in developing White communities in Virginia Beach.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      but not the way Conservatives like to view realities… notice the drum beat of criticism on black leaders , for instance.

    2. WayneS Avatar

      And what have “Black leaders” done for Portsmouth?

    3. WayneS Avatar

      Larry’s comment seems paternalistically racist to me.

  14. WayneS Avatar

    Apparently, Portsmouth wants to be a a ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’…

    Power and the money, money and the power
    Minute after minute, hour after hour
    Everybody’s runnin’, but half of them ain’t lookin’
    It’s goin’ on in the kitchen, but I don’t know what’s cookin’

    They say I gotta learn, but nobody’s here to teach me
    If they can’t understand it, how can they reach me?
    I guess they can’t, I guess they won’t
    I guess they frontin’, that’s why I know my life is out of luck, fool!

    Been spendin’ most their lives livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise
    Been spendin’ most their lives livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise
    Keep spendin’ most our lives livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise
    Keep spendin’ most our lives livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise

    Tell me why are we so blind to see
    That the ones we hurt are you and me?

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