A foursome of competing casino developers has laid their cards on the table in Richmond.
The city’s deadline for casino development proposals was Monday afternoon, and as of press time at least four big players — the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, The Cordish Cos., Bally’s Corp., and a partnership between radio giant Urban One and the parent company of Colonial Downs Group — each submitted plans to City Hall.
While each of those groups announced their proposals publicly on Monday, Leonard Sledge, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development, said the exact number of proposals submitted will be disclosed after the city confirms each proposal meets the RFP criteria, a process he thinks will take a couple of days.
Three of the four publicly announced proposed sites are on the city’s Southside, while another would be built along Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
The Pamunkey, whose ancestral land covers much of the Richmond region dating back to 8,000 B.C., said Monday they would look to build a $350 million casino resort on the city’s Southside at 5000 and 5030 Commerce Road housing thousands of slot machines, 75 table games, a sportsbook, and a 300-room hotel with dining options, conference rooms and a rooftop pool.
The Commerce site is a change from the tribe’s original plan announced in early 2020 prior to the creation of the RFP, when it said it was eyeing a site just outside of Manchester. The tribe said it already owns the newly proposed site: a 24-acre property it purchased in 2019 for $2.5 million.
Bally’s Corp., a publicly traded firm out of Rhode Island that operates 11 casinos nationwide, announced its proposal for a $650 million project to rise on 61 wooded acres at the northeast intersection of Powhite and Chippenham parkways.
Included in Bally’s plans are a casino with over 90 table games and 30 poker tables, a 250-room hotel as well as an event venue, spa, dining options and rooftop bar, all spanning 1.6 million square feet. Bally’s doesn’t yet own the land, according to city records.
Over at 2001 Walmsley Blvd., about two miles west of the Pamunkey tribe’s planned location, Maryland-based media giant Urban One is pitching a $517 million resort casino on land currently owned by Philip Morris International.
Urban One is partnering with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the parent company of Colonial Downs Group. Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins confirmed the proposal in an emailed statement. The company is planning to announce further details today.
Meanwhile, the only known proposal submitted north of the James River came from The Cordish Cos., a Baltimore firm that said Monday it hopes to build a $600 million resort casino project atop the 17-acre Movieland cinema complex off Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
Cordish’s plan would include a 250,000-square-foot casino and 300-room hotel, an events venue and room for 18 restaurants and bars. The project would use the name “Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond,” in keeping with the similar “Live!” brand it has used on its casinos in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
BizSense reported in December that a mystery buyer was eyeing the Movieland for a possible casino, but the developer’s identity remained hidden until Monday.
In the meantime, Bow Tie is looking to set up a drive-in movie theater on its parking lot adjacent to the would-be casino site.
These four groups and any others that responded by the deadline are vying for the one state casino license allocated to Richmond, which was among four other cities in the commonwealth granted the ability to host a resort casino by a law passed in the General Assembly this year.
The city issued the RFP in late December after a public survey asking citizens what factors should be considered when fielding proposals for a resort casino.
The next step is for the city and its consultant to vet the proposals. The city’s Economic Development Authority last month hired New Orleans-based Convergence Strategy Group to help review the proposals.
The city and consultant would then select the best bid and begin negotiations with that respondent, a process Bally’s said it expects to be finalized in June. City residents would then go to the polls to decide whether to grant a casino license to the selected operator during a referendum on Nov. 2, 2021.
The other four Virginia cities set to get casinos are Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol, all of which have already successfully held voter referendums that approved casino developments.
Caesars Entertainment is planning a $400 million casino project in Danville. A group including the chairman of Hard Rock International has a $400 million project planned for Bristol. Gaming company Ruth Street has a $300 million casino in store for Portsmouth. And in Norfolk, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is eyeing a $500 million casino complex along the waterfront.