Richmond Casino Project Has More Suitors Than The Bachelorette

Posted on February 23, 2021 - Last Updated on February 25, 2021

(This story has been updated with details of the proposals from Wind Creek Hospitality and Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos.)

There are plenty of suitors for that Richmond casino project, from the Pamunkey Indiana Tribe to the Bally’s Corporation to a pair of regional hopefuls.

The City of Richmond set Monday as the official deadline for Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) for the potential casino.

Voters in four VA cities, Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, formally approved casino-resort projects during the November election cycle. In fact, they all cleared by a comfortable 2-1 margin. This November, Richmond, which opted to delay its casino vote by a year, could join the mix.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has put together a nine-person committee to evaluate the proposals. The committee, which includes two city council members and seven administration officials, will work with the Convergence Strategy Group consulting firm during the process.

Stoney is expected to announce the winning proposal in June.

Here are the five groups that have publicly confirmed their interest in the Richmond casino project:

Bally’s Corporation

Chief pitch: The Bally Richmond Casino Resort would be a $650 million hotel, casino, and resort on a 61-acre site on the west side of Richmond.

About the company: Bally’s, a prominent gaming company, owns 12 casinos and racetracks throughout the country (CO, DE, LA, NJ, MO, MS, and RI). The company (formerly BLB Investors and then Twin River Worldwide Holdings) rebranded in 2020 following its acquisition of the Bally’s casino trademark. Other recent acquisitions included the sports betting provider Bet.Works, the daily fantasy sports company Monkey Knife Fight, and free-to-play games provider SportCaller.

Impact: Officials say “Bally Richmond” would draw 3.7 million annual visitors with $415 million in gross revenue. It would also create 1,700 full-time jobs.

Wild cards: Bally’s would issue a $100 million upfront payment to the City of Richmond upon selection. Officials are also touting the support of Virginia native/NFL Super Bowl champ Willie Lanier, George Mason University Associate Athletic Director/NFL Hall of Famer Darrell Green, and Thompson Hospitality Corporation Founder/President Warren Thompson.

The Cordish Cos.

Chief pitch: The Cordish Cos. reportedly would build the $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond with gaming, conference, and hotel space. It would be situated on the 17-acre Movieland property, which is located near the Scott’s Addition neighborhood in the central part of the city.

About the company: The Cordish Cos. also operates casinos in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The Baltimore-based company has $866 million in annual revenue and develops large-scale, urban revitalization projects and entertainment districts.

Impact: Cordish officials are touting the company’s vast experience and expertise with projects of this sort. They said the project will create 3,000 permanent full-time jobs and 5,000 temporary direct/indirect construction jobs. They also estimate a $5.3 billion economic impact for Richmond over the next decade.

Wild cards: The Cordish Cos. threatened to sue the City of Norfolk last year after its casino plans there went south. Despite that baggage, the company’s experience with such projects is hard to ignore. Plus, NFL Hall of Famer and Virginia Beach businessman Bruce Smith is involved in the project.

Pamunkey Indian Tribe

Chief pitch: The $350 million Pamunkey Casino Resort Richmond would be located in southern Richmond on a 24.5-acre site off I-95. It’d feature a full casino and gaming space, meeting/conference areas, and a full-service 300-room hotel.

About the company: The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is Virginia’s first federally recognized tribe and will also build the $500 million Pamunkey Casino Resort Norfolk.

Impact: Tribe officials expect the resort to draw 5.3 million visitors annually, with two-thirds coming from outside of Richmond. It would create 1,910 full-time jobs, as well as 1,500 additional temporary jobs during the construction phase of the project.

Wild cards: The Pamunkeys offer local officials a compelling pitch: The project ownership would be “100 percent minority and 100 percent Virginia-based.” They also announced a goal to have 50% of its workforce come from minority communities and 90% come from the Richmond region.

Urban One and Colonial Downs

Chief pitch: As reported on Monday, Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment would team up for a $517 million, 300,000 square-foot casino-resort. They would build it on land owned by Philip Morris USA, located at Walmsley Boulevard and Commerce Road.

About the company: Washington-based Urban One is a media and content company that owns four radio stations in Richmond. Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the owner of Colonial Downs Group, operates five Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and the Colonial Downs Racetrack in Virginia. Rosie’s locations feature historic horse racing (HHR) machines, which are similar to traditional slot machines but don’t operate under regular casino regulations.

Impact: Colonial Downs initially planned to submit its own Richmond casino proposal. However, it ultimately teamed with Urban One. It’s a powerful partnership that features experienced executives in gaming, entertainment, and content.  They’re promising 1,500 full-time jobs and $47 million in annual tax revenue with the project.

Wild cards: Officials say they have partnered with Live Nation to put on 200 live entertainment events each year at the casino-resort. Similar to the Bristol casino, live music would be a key non-gaming feature of the Richmond resort. Additionally, with Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins, Richmond would have the only current Black-owned casino in the US.

Wind Creek Hospitality

Chief pitch: Wind Creek Hospitality announced on Wednesday that it submitted a proposal for a $541 million casino-resort to be built in the Oak Grove/Manchester areas.

About the company: Wind Creek Hospitality is an authority of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and manages its gaming facilities. The Alabama-based tribe has 10 casino and racing properties in the US and the Caribbean.

Impact: The Tribe’s announcement was light on details, so it’s hard to anticipate the possible economic and employment impact. However, the proposed budget of the project, which would include 100,000 square feet of gaming space and a 75,000-square-foot family-friendly entertainment center, suggests a substantial jolt to the local economy.

Wild cards: Wind Creek Hospitality officials promised a focus on diversity and community involvement, which will surely please the City of Richmond, which has put an emphasis on SWaM businesses.

Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos

Chief pitch: The Golden Nugget Richmond Hotel & Casino would be a $400 million casino-resort in Richmond, though officials haven’t finalized a location for the property.

About the company: Golden Nugget, part of billionaire Tilman Fertitta‘s Landry’s Inc., is based in Houston. The multi-brand dining, entertainment, and gaming corporation owns 600 properties across 35 US states and Washington, DC. The company operates casinos, restaurants, aquariums, hotels, a cruise, and other attractions.

Impact: Golden Nugget expects the project to generate 1,200 full-time jobs. It’s also promising to donate $70 million to the Richmond community as part of the project.

Wild cards: Officials have partnered with local developers and minority-owned companies who will help assure the project has a diverse ownership group. Of course, Golden Nugget would also give the region a recognizable name in the casino-gaming world.

Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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