Panel Formally Recommends Urban One As Richmond Casino Operator

Posted on May 20, 2021 - Last Updated on May 31, 2021

The Resort Casino Evaluation Panel in Richmond has chosen a proposal from Urban One and Colonial Downs to move forward as the city’s casino operator.

Richmond officials on Thursday announced the selection. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney subsequently expressed support for the recommendation.

Although six groups had submitted proposals for the project, only Urban One and The Cordish Cos. were in the running entering this week.

Now, Richmond voters will decide the fate of the Urban One project, which is officially called One Casino + Resort. On Election Day, a casino referendum will be on the ballot. Then, with a simple majority voting yes, Richmond would join four other Virginia cities that approved their own casino projects in 2020.

If the referendum is successful, Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the parent company of Colonial Downs, will move forward on the approximately $600 million project.

Why Urban One got the nod

Urban One is a Washington, DC, media company with four radio stations in Richmond. To help run the casino side of things for the proposed resort, Urban One will rely on Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. PPE owns Colonial Downs racetrack in Virginia. It also operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, which are historical horse racing (HHR) parlors located throughout the commonwealth.

One Casino + Resort would be located in South Richmond.

Before Thursday’s announcement, Urban One was a finalist with The Cordish Cos. The Baltimore-based company proposed Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond. The $600 million resort would’ve been located on the 17-acre Movieland property in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood. However, many local groups had protested Cordish’s proposed location and threatened lawsuits if it was chosen.

Before nixing The Cordish Cos., Richmond officials had previously eliminated proposals from:

  • Pamunkey Indian Tribe
  • Wind Creek Hospitality
  • Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos
  • Bally’s Corp.

Mayor Stoney stated:

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond. 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.”

CEO Alfred Liggins reacts

According to the announcement, Richmond’s evaluation panel considered many factors in making its decision. They included:

  • Feasibility and sustainability
  • Proposed location
  • Economic development impact
  • Financial revenue impact
  • Community benefits

In a celebratory statement, Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins lauded the group’s diverse investors. He also stressed the company’s commitment to future employees:

“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 Southside. 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.”

If the project comes to fruition, One Casino + Resort will be the first Black-majority-owned casino since the late Don Barden carved out a gambling empire a few decades ago.

Next steps for Urban One and Richmond

Richmond officials have scheduled a press conference for this coming Monday, May 24, to introduce the project.

As required by the Virginia General Assembly, the Richmond City Council will then petition the court so the referendum on casino gaming can take place during the Nov. 2 election.

ONE Casino + Resort, a 300,000-square-foot resort, would have:

  • 100,000 square feet of gaming space
  • 5,600 construction and permanent full-time jobs
  • 50+ minority investors and 50% minority participation in jobs
  • $100 million in upfront and recurring payments to the city
  • An overall $5.7 billion impact over 10 years

If voters approve the project, Richmond will join Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Those four cities overwhelmingly voted in favor of casino gambling. Their casino-resorts are now slated to open in late 2022 and 2023.

Photo by AP / Scott Applewhite
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Dann Stupp

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

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