NFL Hall Of Famer Bruce Smith To Unveil Casino Plans At Petersburg Town Hall

Written By T.J. McBride on April 11, 2024
Bruce Smith, NFL Hall of Famer, involved in Petersburg Casino push

NFL Hall of Fame defensive end and Virginia native Bruce Smith is getting involved in the push to build a casino in Petersburg.

Smith, who is originally from Norfolk, has a personal stake in this venture. He has regularly invested in Norfolk and the greater Virginia area through real estate. Most recently, he built apartments in Virginia Beach and Blacksburg, and he is building another apartment complex in Norfolk.

Smith has worked to revitalize those areas since retiring from the NFL in 2003, and diving into the Virginia casino market is his next big step toward that goal.

Smith is expected to unveil his team’s plans at a public town hall

According to The Virginian-Pilot, Smith made it clear that he intends to revitalize the area, not just add a casino and pocket the profit. Smith explained that he became invested in the project after visiting schools in the Petersburg area and speaking with at-risk kids.

“I got a chance to see firsthand the needs. We all know that Petersburg has extremely high unemployment, a high level of poverty, and there’s a food desert. We want to tackle all of those issues,” he said.

Sen. Lashrecse Aird explained that she will host a public town hall so potential casino developers, including Smith and his team, can outline their casino development plans. The goal is to better inform the public before the new Virginia casino proposal hits ballots.

“In collaboration with the city’s leadership, this town hall continues to uphold the commitment that the selection of a potential casino operator be a transparent and publicly accessible process. As we move closer to the reality of bringing a referendum to the citizens of Petersburg, we are asking the voters of today to make an economic development decision that will affect the city for decades to come. People deserve to be as informed as possible, and therefore, it’s a personal priority of mine to ensure the vision of each operator is fully explored and that the public has confidence that their interests are represented.”

Five companies are vying to develop the new Virginia casino: The Cordish Companies, Bally’s Corp., Penn Entertainment, Rush Street Gaming and The Warrenton Group.

Smith has already partnered with The Cordish Companies, which could give it a leg up based on his history in the commonwealth, according to Cordish Gaming Group President Rob Norton.

“With his development hat, he’s had a lot of success in Virginia. He has local ties, which brings a lot of passion to what he does,” Norton said.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that for any development to be considered, it must meet certain requirements:

“Bids for the project ‘must include’ a casino, destination resort, retail shopping, dinner and drink options, an event center and a hotel with a minimum of 500 rooms, with a preference for two 4-star hotels.”

Virginia online casinos are not a part of this process and remain illegal.

Petersburg voters will have the final say on a casino in their community

The legislative process for a Petersburg casino is going fairly well despite it being the third attempt.

Recently, the bill passed the House on a 78-18 vote. It then went to the Senate, where it passed by a 24-16 vote. Now the bill is sitting on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk waiting to be signed.

Once that is done, the proposal will be put on the ballot in November, when voters will get the final say on a new Virginia casino. That is a dubious proposition in a commonwealth whose residents have been unwilling to pass casino legislation. But having Smith advocating for a Petersburg casino could be a major boost for those in favor of adding another casino in Virginia.


Image Credit: John J. Gaps III / AP Images

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He is a Nuggets beat writer and also covers the regulated gambling industry across the U.S. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and more.

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