Richmond panel recommends $600M Urban One casino proposal – Virginia Business Magazine

Plan to be introduced Monday to City Council

ONE casino rendering, backed by Maryland’s Urban One Inc.

The city of Richmond’s casino advisory panel has recommended Silver Spring, Maryland-based Urban One Inc.’s $600 million ONE Casino + Resort proposal to move forward for consideration by City Council and citizens, Mayor Levar Stoney’s office announced Thursday. If Council approves the recommendation and voters support it in a November referendum, the resort will be the first casino under Black ownership in the country.

Urban One owns and operates 55 radio stations and the TV One cable network. For this project, the company’s first casino, it has paired with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, owner of Colonial Downs Group and the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium franchise. The casino is proposed to be built on 100 acres owned by Altria Group Inc. on the city’s South Side, near Interstate 95.

This project includes a sportsbook, 200 hotel rooms (up from 150 previously announced rooms), a 3,000-seat theater, 100,000 square feet of gaming space (up from 90,000 square feet), and 12 bars and restaurants.

A field of six proposals was narrowed to two last month by the city’s nine-member advisory panel, a group comprised of city employees and two City Council members who have been studying competing casino proposals since earlier this year. With Thursday’s announcement, Baltimore developer The Cordish Cos.’ proposed $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond resort, which was to be built near the city’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood, is out of the running. Residents of nearby neighborhoods had reacted with strong concerns about traffic and crime around the casino’s location, while there was less outcry about the ONE’s location, which is planned for a more industrialized part of the city, although there are residential neighborhoods in the general area.

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” Stoney said in a statement Thursday. “The project will create over 1,000 good paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond. I applaud the work of the evaluation panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”

The proposal will now go to the Richmond City Council on May 24, where city councilors will vote by June on whether to approved the proposed casino and its operator. If Council approves the proposal, the casino’s fate will be decided by voters in a Nov. 2 referendum. If it does receive the green light from voters, the casino will still need to meet requirements of the Virginia Lottery, the state agency tasked with regulating casinos and gaming in the commonwealth.

Richmond is the last of five cities voting on whether to allow a commercial casino, after the Virginia General Assembly voted in 2020 to allow five economically challenged cities across Virginia to have one casino per locality if approved by local voters. Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all passed casino referendums last November by large margins. Although no polls have been released on Richmonders’ likelihood of passing the casino referendum this year, there appears to be reluctance among some residents to build a casino, although the most vocal resistance was against the Live! Casino’s proposed North Side location and, earlier, Bally’s proposed location on a heavily residential area in the city’s South Side.

“ONE is thrilled the Richmond casino selection committee has chosen the best project with the best location and best team to develop a world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s South Side,” Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins said in a statement. “Urban One and our diverse group of local investors 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.”

The city will hold a public, virtual meeting to discuss the project on Tuesday. More information is available here.