UPDATED: Richmond now has six major casino proposals
Bally's, Urban One, Cordish Cos., Pamunkey, Golden Nugget, Wind Creek vie for final Virginia casino project
Updated Feb. 26
The city of Richmond is now considering six casino proposals, the mayor’s office announced Friday.
Monday afternoon was the city’s deadline for its request for proposals, and all six submitted were deemed eligible. Starting next month, Richmond will hold public meetings with opportunities for citizen input.
In addition to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which announced its plans to submit a project last year, the companies include Bally’s Corp., Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., Texas-based Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos, Wind Creek Hospitality and a partnership between Colonial Downs and Maryland-based media company Urban One Inc.
The proposals varied in size, scope, cost and locations:
- Rhode Island-based Bally’s proposal would bring a $650 million, 1.6 million casino with sportsbook, performance space, a hotel, pool and dining and retail outlets to a 61-acre parcel of land north of Powhite Parkway and east of Chippenham Parkway near the city’s western border. The proposal would include a one-time $100 million payment to the city of Richmond. The company estimates it would create 2,000 jobs and annually generate 3.7 million visitors and $415 million in total gross revenue. The corporation is working with Willie Lanier, the former pro football player from Richmond; Darrell Green, cornerback from the former Washington Redskins; and Warren Thompson, founder, president and chairman of Thompson Hospitality Corp.
- The Pamunkey tribe’s proposal is on a different site than it previously proposed, but the casino would still be on the city’s South Side, off Interstate 95 and south of the Bells Road exit on 24.5 acres, according to spokesman Jay Smith. The current $350 million proposal includes a 300-room, four-diamond hotel tower with a spa, pool, fitness center and several restaurants. The tribe anticipates the project would create 1,910 permanent jobs, as well as 5.3 million annual visitors, up from an earlier estimate of 4 million. Smith notes that the Pamunkey project is the only submission from a Virginia-based entity and would be 100% minority-owned. The tribe is preparing to begin construction on a casino in Norfolk later this year.
- Urban One, which owns and operates 55 radio stations and the TV One cable network, is proposing a $517 million project that would be the first casino under Black ownership in the country. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the company will partner with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, Colonial Downs Group’s owner, which also owns the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium franchise in Virginia. If approved, the casino would be built on 100 acres near Interstate 95 owned by Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA. In details released Tuesday, Urban One’s casino resort would be called ONE, and it would include a sportsbook, 150 hotel rooms, a 3,000-seat theater, 90,000 square feet of gaming space, 12 bars and restaurants, including many with local ties, as well as 20,000 square feet of event space. Urban One, which has a minority stake in MGM National Harbor on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Maryland, would also partner with Live Nation to put on 200 live entertainment events.
- The Times-Dispatch also reports that The Cordish Cos., which owns casinos in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Florida, has submitted a plan for a $600 million project that would include a hotel with 300 rooms and 30 suites, a 4,000-seat entertainment venue and 250,000 square feet of gaming space. This project would be built on the current Movieland movie theater property near The Diamond across the Boulevard from Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Cordish, which developed Norfolk’s Waterfront district, last year threatened to sue the city of Norfolk over its 2013 development agreement with the city, which said that the company could expand a $40 million dining and retail project into a casino if the state legalized gambling. Cordish also backed casino opposition efforts in Norfolk.
- Announced Wednesday is a $400 million proposal from Houston-based Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos, which would bring a 950,000-square-foot facility about six miles from downtown, according to a news release, and would include a 177-room hotel with 37 suites, a 93,000-square-foot casino floor, a 16,000-square-foot event space, a 1,500-seat concert venue and at least six restaurants, including Morton’s The Steakhouse, and four retail outlets. A pool complex would include a lazy river and cabanas. The company estimates that 1,200 jobs would be created, and completion would take about three years after approval. The proposal also includes one-time donations of $60 million to Richmond Public Schools, $10 million to the Richmond Affordable Housing Trust Fund and $1 million to Virginia Union University. The proposed location would be on the same property as the Bally’s proposal, north of Powhite Parkway and east of Chippenham Parkway near the city’s western border, according to the mayor’s office. A Bally’s spokesperson released a statement saying that it has the “exclusive right to purchase” the Parkway Crossing site, although the company has other options and has an exclusive right to purchase a second site.
- Also announced Wednesday is Alabama-based Wind Creek Hospitality’s $541 million project in the city’s South Side on two plots with 46 acres combined. Wind Creek’s bid would include 100,000 square feet of gaming space, 2,500 slot machines and 120 table games, as well as more than 500 hotel rooms in two towers. The project also would include a 67,000-square-foot entertainment center, a spa, indoor pool, fitness center and seven food and beverage locations. The company manages seven casino resorts and a gaming website for the federally recognized Poarch Band of Creek Indians, as well as racetracks in Alabama and Florida.
Of the five cities across Virginia where commercial casinos have been legalized, Richmond was the only one to delay its approval process until 2021. Casino projects in Danville, Bristol, Norfolk and Portsmouth were overwhelmingly approved by voters in last November’s referendums, and are on their way to construction over the next couple of years.
A nine-member evaluation panel named by Mayor Levar Stoney reviewed the casino proposals over the following days, assisted by consulting firm Convergence Strategy Group, and the panel will make a recommendation in May or June to the Richmond City Council, which will then choose the site and operator in June, according to the city.
The city’s first virtual community meeting to discuss the six proposals will take place March 9, and full details will be available on the city website.
At that point, the Virginia Lottery must approve the proposed casino operator, and local voters will have the opportunity to weigh in with a November referendum on the ballot.
Subscribe to Virginia Business.