Richmond Committee Cuts Bally’s From Casino Contention In State Capital

Posted on April 21, 2021

For the people behind the Bally’s Richmond Casino bid, Wednesday’s news about the city’s selection committee’s decision probably felt like getting dismissed by the “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld lore. After offering citizens an opportunity to buy in and campaigning hard for the right to develop a casino in Virginia’s capital city, Bally’s is out of the running.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s office announced the committee culled the candidates down to two on Wednesday. Bally’s isn’t one of the two competitors. Hopeful gamblers in the city also now know who those final bidders are.

There will be no Bally’s Richmond casino

At the beginning of this episode, there were six competitors. Now, just the proposals from Cordish Cos. and Urban One remain. Bally’s efforts proved to be insufficient to nab one of those two spots.

“We appreciate Bally’s interest to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” Leonard Sledge, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development, said in a statement. “The evaluation panel is no longer considering the Bally’s project or the Parkway Crossings site for a resort casino due to concerns about site access, environmental factors, and required approvals from non-city entities that may not be granted or extend the project timeline. We also appreciate the many Richmond citizens who have shared their thoughts throughout this process.”

To some degree, there might have been some foreshadowing here. Bally’s officials desired the proposed casino’s location to ultimately be a plot of land near Chippenham and Powhite parkways with Forest Hill Ave. in the area as well.

However, that didn’t sit well with Stratford Hills residents. Bally’s then proposed a new location behind Rosie’s Gaming Emporium on Midlothian Turnpike. The city denied Bally’s that flexibility, insisting approval of the operator and site are tied to each other. Thus, it was time for Plan B.

Bally’s efforts came up short

Plan B amounted to Bally’s executives going on a “listening tour.” The idea was to curtail opposition to Bally’s proposal by communicating with Richmond citizens directly. The last of those events took place on April 14. That wasn’t Bally’s last-ditch effort, though.

To further sweeten the deal, Bally’s literally offered Richmond residents opportunities to have an ownership stake in the potential casino. Final details never surfaced, and now it’s a moot point with the committee’s decision to move on from Bally’s.

Now, the two remaining applicants will take on the task that Bally’s leaves behind. It’s not clear whether they will be any more successful at smoothing things over with citizens who don’t want casinos in their neighborhoods, though.

Selling citizens on casino projects

The support of Richmond citizens is so crucial for both potential operators because unlike in other VA cities, Richmond voters have yet to have their say in whether their city will welcome casino gaming at all. Opposition concerns include:

  • Crime increases
  • Environmental impact
  • Lower property values
  • Small businesses losing clientele
  • Traffic congestion

The onus is now on both Cordish Cos. and Urban One to convince voters the benefits to their city will outweigh any negative aspects. Cordish Cos. wants to put its $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond on the intersection of N Arthur Ashe Blvd and W Leigh St while Urban One’s $517 million project would occupy the former Altria Operations Center on S Commerce Rd.

If enough Richmond citizens feel the same way about their neighborhoods that Stratford Hills felt about the Bally’s plans, the election could well end in defeat for either developer. For at least one of them, the result will be no license for you.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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