Cordish, Bally’s, Urban One and Pamunkey tribe vie to build casino

An updated rendering of the resort casino that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is planning in the Southside. (Courtesy of Pamunkey Indian Tribe)

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.

After initially looking to build in Manchester, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is now proposing a casino on Commerce Road. (Courtesy of Pamunkey Indian Tribe)

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.

Bally’s is proposing to redevelop wooded land near the intersection of Powhite and Chippenham. (Courtesy of Bally’s Corp.)

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.


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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
5 days ago

Theres so much money involved in this process that it seems inevitable that either the process for selection will be corrupted or at the very least receive allegations of corruption followed by years of civil and potential criminal cases. One suitor will be pleased, the others angry. If we’re crossing this line to be Atlantic City, why not “go Vegas” and allow licenses to multiple applicants and let them compete for the dollars? This isn’t a semi-private utility, wherein billions of upfront infrastructure is required as a service to the region. Its entertainment, so let them build and compete. Lets… Read more »

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
4 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I don’t dislike what you’re saying, but I must chime in and say we are not crossing the line to be Atlantic City. Your analogy, the basis of the whole comment, is not accurate. Atlantic City and Vegas are in the same category in terms of casino density. The accurate analogy would be to compare what VA is doing to what MD has done. MD issued a set number of licenses and they do not have the casino density of Vegas nor Atlantic City. They even staggered the developments/openings of the casinos based on their potential for success. The smaller,… Read more »

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
4 days ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

I fear a process in which the state government determines which ones are the most likely to succeed. i fear that more so than the potential of crime in the streets. Government has no expertise in that analysis; It has a monopoly. Let’s set up a tax structure and issue licenses and and a bureaucracy to oversee the tax collections, and then let the market determine who has the best mousetrap. If we allow the government to select winners and losers, the taxpayers will be the ultimate losers. And the temptation of all that loot will be too much to… Read more »

John Jones
John Jones
4 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

You fear government cronyism more than the riff raff and organized crime a casino would bring to Richmond? That’s a bit sensational.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 days ago
Reply to  John Jones

No. Comparing it to ‘organized crime’ is sensational.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
4 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Terrible idea IMO. Aren’t we limiting it to one license specifically to avoid an Atlantic City situation where supply dwarfed demand and casinos started folding? Unlimited licenses will lead to multiple facilities being built and which opens the possibility (likelihood?) that they won’t all survive and then the city will left with more eyesore and blight. No thanks.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
4 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

No I dont think so. Newer better renditions will lead the lesser product to either upgrade or sell to a new user who will make it complete or redevelop it. Commercial entertainment buildings require major refurbishment or replacement every 15 years on average. Shopping Malls fail or reinvent themselves. Arenas become rust buckets like ours downtown. (Its been outdated for 15 years already and the new one to be built in Henrico will be outdated in 15 years.)The shiny new casinos will be torn down and replaced or a new use will be found for the property within 15 years.… Read more »

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
4 days ago

Not saying that I am in favor of a Casino but the numbers don’t make a lot of sense to me. It would seem to me that if Bristol and Danville can support $400 million dollar facilities, the ranges in Richmond would be higher than the $350-600 million quoted. Either the Richmond market should be able to support a larger facility or, (most likely) they are WAY overbuilding in those other two markets. At one time I think the argument could be made that Casino’s were “destinations” and didn’t necessarily need to be in large population centers but that day… Read more »

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
4 days ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

I suspect they are seeing such high investments due to their proximity to state borders rather than the size of the host cities. Bristol can pull from from North-Eastern TN (Knoxville, Kingsport, Johnson City) while Danville draws from Roanoke and North Central NC (Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro/Winston Salem). Given the other closer options, Richmond would mostly just pull from Central Virginia and be an option for Raleigh/Durham. Given the greater stature and transportation options of Richmond, perhaps we would also have a better chance of pulling nationally rather than just regionally (same for Norfolk/Portsmouth).

Allison Farmer
Allison Farmer
4 days ago

Same old song and dance. First we got a state lottery to fund education. After that we got off-track betting parlors in the city to fund education. The city schools are still falling apart.

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
4 days ago
Reply to  Allison Farmer

In almost every case the “lotteries for education” was a scam. Yes all the profits go to the education budget. But in nearly every case the state just contributed less to the education budget then they would have if there had been no lottery. It was sold as “additional money” to the system, not as a way for the state to be able to contribute less money they they would have otherwise.

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
3 days ago
Reply to  Roger Turner

There is a flaw like this in the Central Virginia Transportation Authority that allows it to give money to GRTC but the City is not required to match that money with the existing funds it’s putting into GRTC which means the city can cut back funding GRTC or roads in General. To close this loop hole they should have required the city to match these new funds with city dollars in ether road repairs or bus service to make things better.

As of now the City can cut back funding on GRTC.

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
4 days ago

Wow. A casino next to willow oaks country club.

I foresee a little neighborhood opposition to that option.

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
4 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

That’s exactly what I thought when I saw this. The two “better” options are probably going to see a lot of opposition from the locals. The other two options are less than ideal as far as being in an area that would attract additional tourism and investment that would typically follow this scale of a development.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
3 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

Is there a worse site for access that the Bally’s site? I’m not sure they can add an additional exit on Chippenham immediately north of the Powhite without weaving the two, so they’ll have to cross the railroad at the rear of the Target property won’t they?

Perhaps it’s a non-competitive courtesy submittal to stay in the game for another reason. Am I missing something?

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
3 days ago

If this casino is going to be 600 million and it brings in $7,200,000 a year in property taxes then the city better get it set in stone that they rid the city of it’s pothole infestation and broken sidewalk plague.

In Tokyo and in all of Japan I didn’t come across a single pot hole.

I think the upper location looks good along Bells Road but the locaiton along the Powhite Parkway seems kind of strange consdering it is mainly swamp land that has a lot of deep standing water in it and most likely should be a park.

Connor Matthew
Connor Matthew
3 days ago

I honestly do not get that Powhite location. Where is the access? Is it the Target/Publix shopping center? Are they planning on going over or under the railroad tracks? Is it an exit off of Powhite or Chippenham? Are they going to be the twentieth company that tries to get approval to build a connector across from the Boulders and through the land east of Crestwood? And the above commenter is correct. It is a lot of marshland.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
3 days ago
Reply to  Connor Matthew

Based on the image, the hotel tower is butted up to the cloverleaf and most of the land is left wild. The road in the foreground appears to be a bridge crossing swamp and/or the rail-line. Given the orientation, it appears to connect to Gravel Hill Road. There appears to be another road in the background by the garage but it is hard to tell if that is connecting to either Chippenham Pkwy or the Shops at Stratford Hills or simply a dead-end for the garage.

Bally Orientation.png
J. Sid DelCardayre
J. Sid DelCardayre
3 days ago

Seriously, has ANYONE commenting here ever been to even the nicest casinos in Vegas and thought “Wow, this is awesome, I’d really like something like this in my home city!”? If so, please un-friend me immediately….Thanks.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
2 days ago

Unfriend you? Sounds like a Boomer moment. We are getting a casino. If you don’t like it, don’t go. But don’t try to restrict our state from the tax revenue, employment opportunities, and the freedom to be entertained in our own city.