Richmond cuts three of six casino proposals
Still in running: Bally's, ONE and Live! resorts
Updated, March 25
The city of Richmond has rejected three of its six casino proposals. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos and Wind Creek Hospitality are no longer in the running, the city confirmed Wednesday night.
In late February, the city announced that six casino projects had been submitted for consideration. Still under consideration are projects proposed by Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp., Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., and a partnership between Colonial Downs and Maryland-based media company Urban One Inc.
“The Pamunkey Indian Tribe was extremely disappointed to learn directly from the city of Richmond that its casino proposal would not receive any further consideration in the Richmond casino selection process,” Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray said in a statement Wednesday evening released ahead of the city’s announcement. “The timing of the decision, which comes before the public comment period has even concluded, seriously undermines confidence in the selection process and suggests a predetermined outcome has been reached. The timing of this decision also suggests that public and community input will not be seriously considered in this process.
“Further, it appears that the city of Richmond did not afford the Pamunkey Indian Tribe the optional preference in state law that recognizes the Pamunkey Tribe’s ancestral heritage in the region. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe submitted the only 100% minority-owned, Virginia-based proposal. We were shocked to learn of our early dismissal from a process occurring in our native region and state, particularly in light of the fact that the tribe was one of the first entities — if not the first — to talk to the city about gaming before commercial gaming was legalized in the commonwealth.”
Wind Creek Hospitality released the following statement Wednesday evening: “We are disappointed to learn that Wind Creek Hospitality will not be considered for the Richmond casino project. We strongly believe that Wind Creek sets itself apart from other operators by not only building casino resorts, but by building up the communities our properties are located within. We wish the best of luck to the other operators and to the city of Richmond as they continue through the selection process.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s office confirmed the narrowing of the field in a news release Wednesday night. “These proposals did not advance due to factors such as lack of site control, concerns about the feasibility of financial projections, lack of organizational experience and/or deficiency of the proposal,” according to the statement. “The top-ranked proposals stood out because the operators provided strong proposals with detailed financial and operational analyses to support their vision for a resort casino in Richmond. The evaluation panel will enter into the next phase of evaluation and begin negotiations with these operators, while continuing to engage the Richmond community.”
The mayor’s office named seven city employees and two Richmond City Council members earlier this year to serve as an advisory panel that will recommend one proposal, which will then be considered by the council and ultimately by city voters on the November ballot. The panel is expected to make its recommendation to City Council by late May or June, and has been holding virtual public meetings to answer questions and receive input from Richmond residents.
City Council is expected to select a preferred casino operator this summer but Richmond voters will have the final word in a November referendum, judging whether to grant approval to the casino to operate in Richmond. Voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth overwhelmingly approved casinos in each of those cities in November 2020 local referendums.
According to the city, there will be virtual public meetings with each of the three remaining casino operators next week, in which they will take residents’ questions. More information on the decision process is available on the city’s website, including a map with the proposed sites.
Still in the race
With Wednesday’s news, the three remaining casino proposals are:
- Bally’s $650 million, 1.6 million-square-foot casino with sportsbook, performance space, a hotel and dining and retail outlets on a 61-acre parcel of land south of the James River near the city’s western border, which also includes a $100 million one-time payment to the city. Former NFL linebacker Willie Lanier, a Richmond resident, and Reston entrepreneur Warren Thompson, the founder, president and chairman of Thompson Hospitality Corp., are also involved in the project.
- Urban One’s $517 million ONE casino. Urban One owns and operates 55 radio stations and the TV One cable network, and it has paired with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, Colonial Downs Group’s owner and the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium franchise owner. This project, including a sportsbook, 150 hotel rooms, a 3,000-seat theater, 90,000 square feet of gaming space, and 12 bars and restaurants, would be built on 100 acres owned by Altria Group Inc. on Richmond’s South Side, a largely industrial area.
- Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos., which owns casinos in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Florida, proposed the $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond resort on Richmond’s North Side, near The Diamond baseball stadium on the current Movieland theater property. The resort would include a hotel with 300 rooms and 30 suites, a 4,000-seat entertainment venue and 250,000 square feet of gaming space.
Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins released this statement Wednesday night: “ONE is honored and excited to be selected as one of three finalists to develop a resort casino project in the city of Richmond. We are convinced our selection is based on having the absolute best location in an industrial area off Interstate 95 in South Richmond; having the most diverse group of more than 50 investors providing opportunity for minority ownership and wealth-building in the Richmond community; and offering the most robust amenities, including 50 acres of green space for Richmond to enjoy, a music venue and a first-class casino and hotel.”
Bally’s President and CEO George Papanier said in a statement Wednesday night, “The Bally’s Richmond is truly a Richmond-first project, dedicated to supporting local businesses and minority organizations by driving job creation and developing sustained economic opportunities. We are confident that our proposal will provide incomparable economic benefits to the greater Richmond community, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue to prove to the city and its various stakeholders that Bally’s is for RVA.”
And Zed Smith, chief operating officer of The Cordish Cos., said in a statement Wednesday, “Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond will maximize jobs, tax revenues and community impacts for the city. The project will generate over $7.5 billion in overall economic benefits, $1.5 billion in tax revenue and over $200 million in incremental community benefit payments to the city over the first 15 years of the project. These payments will help fund critical community services such as infrastructure, education, healthcare, parks & recreation, workforce development and affordable housing.”
Out of the running
The Pamunkey tribe’s $350 million proposal, which included a 300-room, four-diamond hotel tower, a spa, pool, fitness center and several restaurants, was the least expensive of the projects submitted, and its proposed location was on the city’s South Side, off Interstate 95 and south of the Bells Road exit on 24.5 acres. Wind Creek, affiliated with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, proposed its $541 million casino on Richmond’s South Side as well, with 100,000 square feet of gaming space, a 67,000-square-foot entertainment center, a spa, indoor pool and seven food and beverage locations. Golden Nugget’s $400 million proposal was for the same property as the Bally’s proposal, north of Powhite Parkway and east of Chippenham Parkway.
The Pamunkey project was the only one submitted by a Virginia-based entity, and it was the tribe’s second casino proposal, with construction set to begin on its $500 million Norfolk casino this year.
Golden Nugget did not respond to emails seeking comment.