The city has chosen its preferred casino site.
Urban One’s pitch to develop a $600 million, 300,000-square-foot casino on the Southside at 2001 Walmsley Blvd. has been selected by the city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel as the top proposal, Mayor Levar Stoney’s office announced Thursday.
The ultimate decision of whether or not the casino gets built is now in the hands of city residents, who will vote on whether to grant a casino license through a referendum on Nov. 2, 2021.
Through the city’s RFP process, Urban One beat out The Cordish Cos., a Baltimore-based developer which operates casinos nationwide under its “Live!” brand. Cordish was proposing to build a casino on 17 acres of Bow Tie Partners-owned land at 1301 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
Known for its dozens of radio stations, including four in Richmond, Urban One teamed up with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment on its bid for a casino. Peninsula Pacific owns and operates Colonial Downs Racetrack and five Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations in Virginia, along with a pair of casinos in New York and Iowa.
Urban One got a taste for the casino business in 2016, when it invested $40 million for a minority stake in MGM National Harbor, a resort casino in Maryland.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins thanked the city and lauded the tax revenues Urban One estimates the project would generate.
“We are fully committed to creating good paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure,” Liggins said.
In addition to a 100,000-square-foot gaming floor and 250-room hotel, Urban One’s project would also include a 3,000-seat theater, a 20,000-square-foot event space, 55 acres of green space with a festival lawn, and 12 restaurants. Liggins has previously said they’re in talks with some local restaurateurs to open concepts at the development.
Urban One claims the project would generate $525 million in tax revenue over the next decade, and that they would pay the city a $140 million up-front payment. Per its website, Urban One estimates that 77 percent of the casino’s visitors would be non-locals.
Stoney, who said the project would be “an additional economic engine in South Richmond,” is now preparing to introduce the casino matter to the Richmond City Council at its May 24 meeting.
If approved, it would head to the Virginia Lottery Board, which regulates casinos in the state, before the city petitions Richmond Circuit Court for the referendum to be placed on the ballot in November.
Zed Smith, The Cordish Cos.’ COO, issued a statement expressing their disappointment in losing out on the deal.
“While we believe our site clearly would have brought the largest long-term economic benefit to the City and its residents, as evidenced by the City’s own independent, outside consultant, we respect the Evaluation Committee’s decision,” Smith said.
Philip Morris owns the land on which Urban One is planning the project. It’s unclear whether the firm has it under contract for purchase.