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Portsmouth renames Casino Street after trailblazing Senator L. Louise Lucas

In the city of Portsmouth, Virginia, local government officials have announced their plans to rename a street near the city’s casino, in honor of a state lawmaker who was instrumental in bringing about an era of legalized casino gambling. The renamed avenue will be based in close proximity to the Rivers Casino Portsmouth and will now be known as L. Louise Lucas Drive, a tribute to the efforts of Virginia Senator L. Louise Lucas.

A groundbreaking figure and pioneer in Virginia’s political landscape, Lucas holds the distinction of being the first woman and the first Black person to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate in the state’s history. Her work was critical in passing the 2020 legislation that gave certain cities, including Portsmouth, legal permission to host casinos. This successful venture has earned Lucas the popular nickname of Virginia’s “casino lady.”

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From the beginning of her career, Lucas harbored the vision of introducing a casino to the Hampton Roads area. The realization of this dream was brought about by the enactment of Senate Bill 36 in 2020. In addition to Portsmouth, the gaming package made possible by this legislation also allowed for the establishment of a casino in the neighboring city of Norfolk.

A historic milestone, Rivers Casino Portsmouth, which opened in January 2023, became the first permanent casino in Virginia. This $340 million facility, operated by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, generated impressive revenues of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in its debut year, and strengthened Portsmouth’s local economy through more than $15 million in tax contributions.

The decision to rename the street was unanimously approved by Portsmouth City Council last week. Formerly known as TCC Dr., the roadway served primarily as access to Tidewater Community College. As part of the city’s recent wave of street name changes, 2022 saw the christening of road after rap icon and Portsmouth resident Missy Elliott – Missy Elliott Blvd.

An emotional Lucas, born and raised in Portsmouth, shared her deep gratitude for the recognition and expressed her joy and humility at the honor she received in her hometown. The short stretch of road that bears her name passes the main entrance of the community college and eventually leads to the main entrance of the Rivers Casino.

City officials argue that such recognition is a worthy tribute for Lucas, who has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the betterment of Portsmouth and the Hampton Roads area, making significant progress in her role as a local “pillar” and contributing to the history of the city.

Prior to her political entry in 1984 as a member of the Portsmouth City Council, Lucas achieved a successful academic and professional career path, including a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees with a focus in Human Resources Planning and Administration from Norfolk State University . Her prolific career includes longtime service as executive director of the Lucas Lodge, a facility dedicated to serving adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The renaming of the street in her honor is a testament to her relentless drive and an enduring symbol of her outstanding political and social contributions to Virginia, Portsmouth and beyond.

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