The 650,000 square foot White Mill Building in Danville has been vacant for years.
“There were folks who are of the opinion that we should tear the building down,” said Telly Tucker, the Danville Economic Development Director. “It will never be redeveloped. It was built in 1920. It’s seen its better days. It’s all concrete. It’s an eyesore.”
However, there has been talk and speculation about the old textile factory. Some saying a new casino could be taking its place.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Danville resident Lynnwood Baller.
The Alexander Company, an industrial development firm, has been eyeing the property — this was long before talks of a casino. Concepts for the property include hotels, condos, businesses, and restaurants all under one roof.
The company made a deal with the city. They will have the option to purchase the White Mill Building property for $3 million in Spring 2020.
Ken Larking, the Danville City Manager, says city council believes the decision for a casino should be left up to voters.
“The biggest misconception is that people think that city council and the city as a whole is pushing for this to happen,” said Larking. “And that’s not the case. We’re not pushing for a casino or not pushing for a casino.”
City leaders want the casino question put on a ballot — that can only happen if lawmakers in Richmond decide to change the law in 2020 and allow casinos in the Commonwealth.
James Kilsby, who works with gaming compliance, says Virginia is losing out on millions of dollars in revenue.
“I think it will be pretty high on the agenda in 2020 early next year when the General Assembly meets again,” said Kilsby.
If the laws are changed, a casino in Danville could create 5,000 new jobs with a $900 million economic impact by 2028.
City leaders insist they are staying neutral on the casino conversation, but they have discussed how a casino could help the City of Danville.
Council members have discussed the possibility of revenue from a casino going towards public education and public safety.
“We’re going to be prepared should it happen, but we’re not counting on it by any stretch of the imagination,” said Larking.
Although some residents are worried a casino could potentially bring crime to the city and individuals could develop gambling addictions.
“You might have the novelty affect where some people who have never gambled before get caught up in it and develop a problem,” said Christine Reilly.
Reilly works for the National Center for Responsible Gaming. She can understand the concerns from residents.
“Targeting people who don’t have a lot of money to begin with can be a problem because they have more to gain by winning at gambling,” said Reilly.
Not everyone has the same sentiment.
“It’s good people that go gambling,” said Ashley Ingram. “It’s not necessarily horrible people.”
Ingram lives in North Carolina. She believes her family and her neighbors who work in Danville would spend money at a casino.
Ingram doesn’t think crime will become a problem either.
“I don’t believe the riffraff that people think is going to come to Danville is going to come to Danville for that,” said Ingram.
Whether a casino comes to Danville or not, current residents hope more businesses will move in to help the city.
“We need all the help, all the life, all the everything that we can get,” said Danville resident Sylvia Williams. “That’s what I want for Danville.”
The Alexander Company told WFXR there is interest from at least one casino developer.