Richmond Casino Project

Casino supporters in Richmond, Virginia, want another chance to vote on plans for the $560 million One Casino + Resort. Prospects are looking a little better for Richmond to land the fifth Virginia casino after a 2023 vote was confirmed in July.

A local charity attempted to block the referendum shortly after it was announced. However, a state court dismissed the challenge, saying the group lacked standing to bring its complaint forward. The measure will be on the 2023 ballot, as planned.

What happened in 2021?

Richmond voters rejected the first casino referendum on Nov. 2, 2021. After four Virginia cities overwhelmingly voted in favor of casinos in 2020, only Richmond had a casino referendum in 2021. After a heated yearlong campaign, the anti-casino voters ultimately won out and nixed the massive project.

As of Nov. 10, 2021, the final vote was:

AGAINST the casino40,24350.95%
FOR the casino38,75049.05%

The project could have been a massive generator of jobs and revenue for Virginia’s capital city. However, a slim majority of voters ultimately decided that a casino-resort was not the right fit for the city of 226,000.

The city of Richmond and Urban One wanted a fresh vote in November 2023. That’s what they’ll get.

Richmond casino proposals

Although six hopefuls vied for the project, Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel ultimately chose the proposal from Urban One, which had teamed Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the parent company of Virginia’s Colonial Downs racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums.

Richmond officials ultimately chose the Urban One/PPE proposal over five others. The projects ranged from $300 million to $650 million each, and they drew some heavyweights from the casino and entertainment world.

Those other suitors for the casino project included:

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

The Cordish Cos. was the runner-up in the evaluation process.

Its proposed project, the $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond, would’ve been situated on the 17-acre Movieland property. It’s located near the Scott’s Addition neighborhood in the central part of the city, and some residents from local neighborhoods protested the site.

The pitch: One Casino + Resort in Richmond

One Casino + Resort would’ve been located at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. Philip Morris USA currently owns the 100-acre site.

Backed by Urban One CEO Alfred C. Liggins III, the resort would’ve been the only Black-owned casino in the US.

The estimated $600 million project would’ve included:

  • 250-room hotel that could expand to 600 rooms
  • 100,000-square-foot casino, poker room, and sportsbook
  • 2,000 slot machines and 100 table games, including blackjack and roulette
  • 15 bar and restaurants
  • 3,000-seat event center with 200 annual concerts and shows
  • Resort-style spa and salon
  • 55-acre park and green space
  • On-site TV and radio production studios

In choosing Urban One, officials cited many of the advantages of the proposal. They included a shovel-ready construction site, minimal traffic impact, and its distance from residential neighborhoods.

The benefits would’ve also included:

  • 5,600 construction and permanent full-time jobs
  • $15/hour minimum starting rate, average salary/benefits of $55,000/year
  • 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

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” Mayor Levar Stoney had said in advance of the vote. “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.”

Key dates for the Richmond Casino Resort launch

Feb. 22, 2021: Deadline for potential casino developers to submit a formal proposal

March 24, 2021: The City of Richmond eliminates three of the six proposals, including those from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos, and Wind Creek Hospitality. The three finalists include Bally’s Corporation, The Cordish Co., and a joint proposal from Urban One and Colonial Downs.

April 21, 2021: Officials eliminate Bally’s Corporation proposal from consideration, which makes it a two-horse race between Urban One and The Cordish Cos.

June 2021: Richmond officials submit their preferred casino partner information for preliminary review by the Virginia Lottery.

August 2021: Deadline to order a referendum for the General Election

Nov. 2, 2021: The measure is narrowly defeated in the General Election.

July 2023: A Richmond casino initiative is confirmed to be on the 2023 ballot.

Pamunkey Casino Resort Richmond

The other four host cities held their referendums in late 2020. The Richmond casino project referendum, however, took place on the November 2021 General Election ballot.

The referendum didn’t pass, but the city of Richmond and Urban One — the proposed casino owners — want to try again in November 2023.

Urban One officials initially hoped to open the casino by December 2023. When the 2021 vote in Richmond failed, it stalled those plans. The project can’t start until voters sign off in November 2023.

Casino visitors can expect a wide array of slot machines, as well as table games such as blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and others. The resort will also likely have a poker room and sportsbook.

The state allows Virginia online sportsbooks, but casinos are exempted from that cap. That means a Richmond casino could add a retail and online sportsbook if the city finally gets a casino.

Put another way, since each of the five casinos has the option for a sports betting license, it would not be surprising to see a sportsbook at the Richmond casino.

Assuming Richmond keeps its partnership with Urban One and the original plans remain intact, the casino will go up at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. Philip Morris USA currently owns the 100-acre site.