After Richmond Voters Said No, Could A Petersburg Casino Be Next?

Posted on November 11, 2021

Richmond voters said no, but when it comes to a possible new Petersburg casino, there sure seems to be some mounting support.

Earlier this month, Richmond residents narrowly rejected a casino referendum.

If it has passed, Urban One, along with its gaming partner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, would’ve constructed the $560 million One Casino + Resort in the Virginia capital city.

Could Richmond’s loss now be Petersburg’s gain? Is a different but nearby Virginia casino possible?

Officials gear up for possible Petersburg casino

Petersburg, a city of approximately 30,000, is located about 20 miles south of Richmond.

After the Richmond casino referendum failed by a 51.2% to 48.8% margin, the focus soon turned to other potential locales for the project.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly authorized five specific VA cities to hold a casino referendum. During Election Day 2020, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all overwhelmingly voted in favor of casino gambling. Resorts of varying size and shape will now spring up in those cities in the next few years.

However, after waiting to hold its referendum until this year, Richmond saw a much more heated and contentious election cycle. Ultimately, voters nixed the venture, which would’ve been built on the city’s Southside.

But Urban One, a Maryland-based media conglomerate with multiple Richmond-area radio stations, isn’t giving up just yet.

Neither are local officials who support the idea of a Petersburg casino.

Urban One not alone in Petersburg interest

Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham has already met with Urban One officials, according to WTVR.com. They weren’t the only ones interested in the city as a possible casino host site, according to the report.

As Parham said:

“We’ve been blessed. For some reason, word has gotten out and we’ve had several of the casino guys who were in Richmond down in Petersburg looking now. We are excited to have them and definitely explore the opportunity to be a site here in Petersburg.”

In addition to Urban One, other companies had vied for the Richmond project. The list includes some gaming heavyweights, including Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos, Bally’s Corp. and The Cordish Cos. Like that possible Richmond casino, other gaming vets may also want to vie for a Petersburg project.

Urban One would’ve paid Richmond $50 million per year over an entire decade if the referendum had passed. According to Parham, that $50 million represents 50% of Petersburg’s annual budget.

That potential revenue stream, as well as the accompanying jobs and tourism boost, are reasons Virginia State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) has also pledged support for the idea. His district includes South Richmond, as well as Petersburg.

“There was a piece of barren wasteland that not a weed had been growing on for 150 years, and we lost that opportunity,” Morrissey told NBC12.com of the failed Richmond vote. “Within seconds, my brain was saying, ‘What’s Richmond’s lost is Petersburg’s gain.’”

An expedited Petersburg casino referendum?

For officials to secure a Petersburg casino referendum, the General Assembly and governor would first need to approve it. The Petersburg City Council would also need to sign off.

Morrissey hopes to expedite that process so voters could cast ballots for a casino referendum in Petersburg as soon as next year.

Then, it would be up to Petersburg voters to make the final decision. With a simple majority, the city, which is home to Virginia State University and Brightpoint Community College, would get its resort.

Petersburg officials say the massive project could revitalize the city’s infrastructure, schools, housing, courts and job market.

Photo by Shutterstock / Stephen B. Goodwin
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